[This past Shabbos, R’ Michel Twerski Shlita- Milwaukee (Horinstipol) Rebbe, spoke about the issues of the use/overuse of the Internet and technology, especially social websites that are tragically destroying families in Klal Yisroel. The article below was sent to the members and friends of Congregation Beth Jehudah -R’ Michel & R’ Benzion Twerski’s Shul. (Publicizing this article has bee authorized).
Last week’s Dvar Torah after the Shabbos morning davening generated a good deal of discussion, and some misunderstandings. The following will hopefully clear up some of those misunderstandings, and provide concrete suggestions on the implementation of a workable policy.
The development of technology, specifically the irrefutable harm of Internet use and abuse have led to serious family and community concerns not even on the radar screen of our previous generation. The rise in easy access of our families, especially our children, to the Internet has led to an exponential increase in precious time spent addicted to social media such as Facebook and YouTube, video games, and truly horrific violent and pornographic images as well as a greater opportunity for our children to be targeted by predators that lurk online.
Our community has continually been an inspiration in its aspirations toward greater Avodas Hashem and Torah observance; we have never shirked our responsibility in providing our children with a safe environment in which they can develop toward a promising future.
With that knowledge, we are certain you will embrace the following safety guidelines, already in place in many other Torah communities:
1. All computers in the home including laptops must have filters such as k9 or net nanny, etc. installed and activated to block out pornography and social network sites. Computers brought home from work must be placed somewhere inaccessible to children and should have password protection at startup. Obviously children should not have the password to disable the filters.
2. We would urge that as little time as possible should be spent on the internet for recreational purposes (this pertains to both adults and children); the internet should be accessed only in an open area of the home (not in a private room with the door closed) where spouses and parents can monitor use. Filters should not be relied upon as foolproof gatekeepers; filters have been known to be overridden and hacked through, particularly by our very intelligent and savvy younger generation;
3. With the surge in WiFi technology, be sure any WiFi Internet connections available from home computers are password protected. The prevailing Rabbinic perspective is the adult woman of the home (i.e. mothers and wives) should have exclusive control of the password protection such that husbands and children do NOT know the password to gain access to the Internet or to add/remove filter controls.
4. Any handheld devices that our children have access to, such as. cellphones, PSP games, Ipods or other devices that can potentially access the internet must have the Internet disabled, or at the very least, the device must be password protected at startup.
5. Children should not be given access to adult family members’ social media or networking accounts, such as Skype, Facebook, Twitter etc., nor should children have their own accounts on these or any other social media/networking sites.
6. Similarly, Email accounts for children are strongly discouraged and should only be allowed if parents have access to the accounts and are monitoring their children while they are emailing.
These represent just starting points for protecting our families from the insidious effects of internet abuse that can easily ensnare innocent young people into self-destructive behaviors, causing unimaginable grief and heartache to themselves and their parents.
We recommend you review this letter with your children so that they have a clear understanding of the seriousness of the issue and the potential consequences involved.
Due to the grave danger involved, we cannot afford to be dismissive of any of the concerns detailed above.
With prayers for success in protecting the neshomos Hashem has placed in our trust,
Rabbi Michel Twerski Rabbi Benzion Twerski