The Jewish Mom blog has posted some scary statistics about religious kids and Internet use, and I thought I’d share my reply here, not just in her comments section, though probably more people read her comments in a day than read my blog in a week – heck, a year.
At last, an area where I have some expertise!
1) Filters – a smart kid can get around them.
2) Supervision – remember that your computer is only ONE WAY your kids use the Internet. Do they have a phone? Do their friends have a phone? An iPod? Whatever it is, if it has a screen, it probably has Internet access… that you probably can’t supervise.
Here’s a frum guy who came to my kids’ school last year.
Watch his video: http://www.philiprosenthal.org/videos.php
What he has to say is SCARY, but we all need to hear every second of it.
Remember that your kid (and mine) can get WiFi (wireless) access from any public library, many recreation centres, shopping malls, maybe even at school.
Maybe even in your home – I walked into my son’s bedroom one day to find a Google window up on his screen. I thought he didn’t have access down there, but it turns out our neighbours did – and they had an open WiFi connection.
You can’t stop your kids from using the Internet, or from visiting “bad” sites. I believe we can only reinforce Hashem’s message and do our best to LIVE Hashem’s message in our own lives, and hope our kids will come out okay.
I would also add what I heard from Shmuli Boteach – I’m not a huge fan, but I interviewed him once, and he said some smart stuff. Be POSITIVE with your children. If all you talk to them about is negative (“don’t have sex, don’t do drugs… don’t DIE”) you’re sending the wrong message; you’re pushing them away with scare tactics.
The right message is an ongoing dialogue – from birth to marriage and beyond – about how to live our lives with sanctity, in line (as I said before) with Hashem’s holy purpose.
The “entertainment” they find on the internet is a series of small, superficial good feelings that keeps them clicking through, ever searching for the next “hit.” Hashem’s intention is for us to find deeper, lasting happiness; for our bodies to be holy, our time to be holy, our marriages to be safe and sacred.
If that’s what your kids see and hear, I believe they can withstand almost any amount of Internet exposure and still probably turn out alright. (and on a personal level, I’d better hope so!)