A Different Approach to Internet Safety For Teens



I found the approach towards internet safety for teens that the Kiryat Arba/Hebron Ulpana High School for Girls champions refreshing and even inspiring. It is very different from what our haredi schools do in the US, which take fewer chances and concentrate power in the hands of the school and authority figures. The Kiryat Arba approach puts far more trust in the student. It would be wonderful to learn which approach has greater success. (Because the populations are so different, finding out would not necessarily mean that the “better” approach should be exported to the other locale.

Each approach has advantages and disadvantages. The US approach teaches students the need for fences and boundaries, and that sometimes they need to be placed in the hands of others. The Kiryat Arba approach teaches young people to make responsible decisions, and builds their confidence.

Which ever way readers favor, the list of safety rules (beyond the primary stipulation – use of an effective filter – which they do not even count on their list of ten “dibros” of safe surfing is a delight to read. It includes such ideas as keeping sifrei kodesh near the keyboard, as a reminder of our link to holiness, and keeping Torah sites in one’s list of favorites for the same reason. It eschews Facebook friendships for real ones.

One rule would improve all our lives: Never go to the internet without a goal. Know what your purpose is, and stick to it.

[Yes, I know it would be better if someone translated the rules. Volunteers? And thanks to Harvey Tannenebaum, Efrat, for the submission]

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8 Responses

  1. D says:

    Well, if no one else has done it yet, a quick, somewhat loose translation:

    The Ten Commandments of Safe Internet Browsing.

    Seatbelts“: Filters. Don’t browse without one, whether installed or server-side.

    1) Danger: Be careful about transmitting personal information or pictures to anyone. If someone harasses or threatens you online, tell your parents, who can contact the internet service provider and the police.
    [This line was partially obscured in the image, and may be slightly inaccurate. ~Translator.]

    2) Don’t use the internet for no reason, just to waste a free half-hour:
    a) Set a purpose – “Why am I going online now?”
    b) Decide how long you will be online.
    c) Schedule your “internet time” so that you have something else scheduled right after it is over, to ensure that you’ll get off when your time is up .

    3) “Yichud:” Your internet-capable computer’s place is in an open, central area of the house.

    4) Sefer Kodesh: Keep a sefer next to the computer and learn from it for two minutes before you go online. It will affect you positively.

    5) Hang words of chizuk and inspirational messages around the computer, or attach them to the top of the screen.

    6) Hang Torah-dik pictures on the computer or nearby, in areas visible from the computer.

    7) Favorites: Add websites that are Torah-dik and of good quality to your Favorites, on the topics of Emunah, Parsha, Religious Zionism and similar things, so that you’ll go to such sites.

    8) Chat: It’s an imaginary connection; try to minimize your use of chat and Facebook. Meet your friends face to face, not on Facebook.

    9) Email services: Get rid of your accounts on walla and nana. [Translators note: Approximate Israeli equivalents of Yahoo, in which email is accessed on a site full of other things.] If you need a free email account, get one from shoresh, ערוץ 7 or Gmail.

    10) Real Life Remember that there’s also life outside the internet. (For instance: travelling, meeting friends, reading books, helping your mother, volunteering, gardening, going to snif [youth group meetings], playing with younger siblings, starting new hobbies, sports, etc.)

  2. Ellen Lebowicz says:

    People need to be reminded over and over that future yeshiva and seminary heads, shadchanim, even the potential date, future bosses, etc. have the same access to internet that you do, and can and will use the internet to track down the person’s credentials, and pass (sometimes unfairly) judgement (including youthful indeiscretion) on what comes up in their google searches. As for apps like instagram and snapshot, kids have the belief that picture which disappear into some “internet cloud” are irretrievable, but THEY ARE NOT. And that the sites people go to can be traced just as my purchasing one item on line will result in a flurry of offers for similar items from other stores, etc. Each generation has its particular nisayon, and just forbidding use of the internet teaches people (especially kids) much more clever ways to take their activities into places most of us adults haven’t even dreamt they can go. We need to keep ourselves ever vigilant as to new apps and ways the kids can get around and through us. And perhaps we need to give them some freedom to tell us things they have found that contradict everything we hold dear, so we can actually have a dialogue with them, in an atmosphere where they will feel neither judged nor in trouble, because their distortions of what they find and communicate amongst themselves is far more damaging when there is no adult that can help them see another side of the coin. I’m a school social worker in a kiruv school, and I’ve learned a lot from the kids, because they trust my confidentiality. They also blurt out things that if they’d given it some thought, they’d have withheld from me because I’m still an adult and still not entirely to be trusted. But from these little bombshells they drop I learn a lot and I can use this information to later be helpful to them.

  3. tzippi says:

    Beautiful! BTW, thank you, D. I worked my way through it before I opened your comment. I sort of guessed 9 through the context. It is worth reading in the original for its elegance and should be appreciated even by people coming from the right (such as myself. Our school doesn’t allow social networking for its high school students.).
    There are a number of books about the prices we pay in this technology age, such as Virtually You: The Dangers of the E Personality by Dr. Elias Aboujaoude and The Big Disconnect by Dr. Catherine Steiner-Adair. I read the former and it’s transformative.

  4. Dr. E says:

    Without getting into the efficacy of this new alternative approach, the American Chareidi position on the Internet is not really an “approach” to the it at all. It is merely a different area of life in which there is an asynchronous group of rules which are added to the list. Nothing strategic or “seichelldik” about that beyond monolithic barrier-setting, circling the wagons, and then hoping for the best. The end game has more to do with reputation management for the school or Yeshiva than the actual spiritual-social well-being of the children. The results have been a continuum of ineffectiveness, counterproductivity, cynicism, and disaster. In most cases, the rules are geared towards the “ideal” elite, for whom the rules would have really been unnecessary. As time goes on, once non-seicheldik rules are consistently snickered at or ignored, those who make the rules end up having diminished credibility in other areas of their teaching and guidance. And when young people feel that what they are doing is wrong, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy.

  5. tzippi says:

    Dr. E., I think you have a very valid point. While I would probably end up in a chareidi community were I fortunate enough to be able to live in E”Y, I would call myself out of town yeshivish. There is a solid recognition that bans won’t work. The approach taken is to educate. There have been a number of events, some for parents, some for the community at large. The school events outline school policy while also educating. By educating, I mean getting people to think about what their technological involvement is doing to them.
    I personally am grateful that our local “yeshivish” schools ban social networking. As Ms. Lebowicz’s experiences seem to bear out, social networking is not something young impressionable teens handle as well as adults do. (Of course the case may be made that that’s up for debate….)

  6. Aron says:

    The true danger to Judaism from the Internet is not porn it’s the constant exposure to Rationalism and critical thinking, a journey that can often leads to Othrthopraxy. At least that was my journey.

  7. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    Dr. E,

    Why do you refer to the American Chareidi position as being unrealistic? The Israeli Chareidi position is the same if not worse. The result in many cases is kids voting with their feet and simply leaving the fold, or alternatively living a totally hypocritical lifestyle. Some Israeli chareidim have TV sets hidden behind ornate wooden cabinets. Some people have dual cellphones, one “kosher” and the other internet-enabled. Historically Judaism intelligently engaged the challenges of the outside world and survived them. In the long run Yiddishkeit prevailed. Here we are, as opposed to all those other societies which didn’t make it. The sect of Judaism which doesn’t engage will disappear and the one which does will remain.

  8. YM says:

    The true danger to Judaism from the Internet is not porn it’s the constant exposure to Rationalism and critical thinking, a journey that can often leads to Othrthopraxy. At least that was my journey.

    I agree with your general sentiment … really the problem though is not “rationalism”, but the narcissism and superficiality on the one hand and the cynicism and mockery on the other hand which people tend to let loose online.

    Even the “frum” sites tend to not be inspiring. Maybe my memory is tricking me, but I recall good discussions on halacha and tanach on mail-jewish back in the 90s and haven’t found any similar forum on today’s internet (though of course there are plenty of quality audio and video shiurim available today if you know where to look).

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