If everything on the Internet were negative and degrading, parents might have a simpler time deciding how to handle their children’s exposure to it. But given that many sites are educational, even uplifting, where should they draw the line?
To help put the dilemma in a Jewish context, three organizations have come together to offer parents some expert advice. On Saturday evening, Dec. 22, the Jewish Educational Center of Elizabeth, Jewish Family Service of Central New Jersey, and the Orthodox Union are presenting an event focused on “The Effects of Media & the Internet on Your Children’s Morality.”
The program, at the JEC’s Bruriah High School for Girls in Elizabeth, is free and open to all. Funding has been provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater MetroWest NJ through a Kesher: The Jewish Family Connection grant.
Communication is the key to protecting one’s kids, according to educator and author Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, who will be the featured speaker. Horowitz is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam in Monsey, NY, and the founder and director of the Center for Jewish Family Life/Project YES, an organization he created to help at-risk youngsters and their families.
In an interview this week with NJ Jewish News, he said he urges parents to get their children in the habit of talking to them — about the good and the bad, “even when it’s going to upset you.” While so much is different about parenting today than in the past, the basic challenge is the same, he said: “To have a close, trusting relationship with your children. That was true for the immigrant parents trying to deal with their American children, and it’s still the case.”
Horowitz, who has five children of his own and six grandchildren, said that in his talk he plans to deal with the fine line parents need to walk between “supervising and snooping.” He said, “If parents are too controlling, kids find ways to go behind their backs. Children, naturally, will bridle if they’re being told all the time what they can and can’t do, but you do still have to be vigilant.”
He urges parents to develop “a third category.” He said, “If some things are okay for them to do or to see, and others are not okay, it helps to have those things where you can say, ‘I’m not happy about this, but it’s okay this time, so long as it’s not too often or too much.’”
After his talk, participants will be able to choose one of four workshops offered by JEC professionals, all with mental health training: Rabbi Avrohom Herman, Dr. Akiva Perlman, Rabbi Ariel Schochet, and Dr. Tzipporah Wallach.
Herman, rabbi of the JEC’s Elmora Avenue Synagogue in Elizabeth, will speak on improving communication among parents and teens.
“While all parents love their children, their interaction with them often transmits a different message of having a conditional relationship, which undermines their ability to constructively communicate with their teenager,” he told NJJN. “It isn’t easy for parents to succeed at this, but I hope to impart the skills necessary for them to begin improving their relationship with their teenager.”
Perlman, director of guidance at the JEC’s Rabbi Teitz Mesivta Academy, and assistant professor of Long Island University’s School of Social Work, will address “Communicating with Teens about Technology.”
“What has always been striking to me is my too-often encounter with a teen who has a positive relationship with their parents, except for the area of technology, where there exists a looming divide between parental expectations and actual behavior,” he said. “My intent is to empower parents to embrace their roles and help them open up constructive lines of communication even in the face of the many challenges that exist in this ever-changing landscape of technology.”