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Wednesday, November 23, 2005

NYT On Lakewood Internet Ban

The NY Times has short piece on banning of the Internet in Ultra-orthodox circles. Pretty bare, but they get it mostly right. The part I find perplexing is that apparently, according to the article, Streimel, the blogger of Hassid and a Heretic fame, who stopped blogging suddenly in October, claiming to have rediscovered his religion, has been blogging under a new name. Why in the world he would "exit" the blogosphere, in a ruse obviously designed to protect his anonymity, only to "come out" to a NY Times reporter in a Starbucks, is beyond me. Should we expect him to make another hasty "exit", claiming to have had a reunion with his faith, and then start up again, under a new new name? Weird.

But seriously, the dangers of the Internet is a topic gaining more and more discussion time in the OrthoHouse as my kids get older. It was never really an issue for us while our children were small, and we weren't set up with any passwords or firewalls to keep the kids off. That changed one day, when I came home from work to find my oldest innocently perusing a (totally appropriate for children) website. I got very nervous. Anyone who uses the Internet regularly doesn't have to be told that questionable content is never more than a click away. So the thought of my child, even at a tender and innocent 10 years old, surfing the web, made the Internet warnings we had gotten from our kids' schools hit home. We set up the necessary security systems, and (so far), it seems that it has kept the kids out, except under our supervision. But anyone that thinks that no harm can come from kids trolling the net unsupervised is dead wrong. I have heard countless stories of kids who stumbled onto the wrong site, and soon became experts at finding such sites. Scary stuff.

I'm not advocating a ban, just more responsible use than I've seen in many of my kids' friends homes. To be honest, I have stopped letting one of my children go over to a certain friend's house where they have consistently had no supervision or restriction on their web access. I just cannot imagine any parent leaving a young child to surf the net in privacy.

The "hot button" issue when I was growing up was television. Our teachers tried to convince us to get rid of them, our principals railed against watching it in assemblies, our parents were told to strictly limit the time we spent in front of it. I laugh when I think of how naive they were about what was coming down the pike. There is no comparison between the "evils" of network television and the completely uncharted territories of the Internet.

Now, obviously, you can only protect your children so much, and they need to be given the tools to function in the outside world. So I am perfectly happy to show my children how to do research for a project or report on the web. But only under my watch. Oh, they plead. They beg to go onto PBS.com, the American Girl site, ESPN.com, and a few others. And the answer is always an unequivocal"no". If either myself or their dad isn't around, no dice. Maybe they think I'm a mean mother, like I surely thought of my parents when they restricted my TV time.

No problem.


Blogger Binny said...

As someone who grew up in the Internet Age (I'm 23), I completely understand your household policies. What I don't understand is if proper "security systems" are in place (and I have no idea how these things work, so what I'm about to say may make no sense), what harm is there in letting your children visit innocuous sites like PBS.com and ESPN.com? If by some stretch one link on PBS leads to a link that leads to a link that leads to bad things, wouldn't that just be filtered out anyway?

Side point: What bothers me most about the "uncharted territories of the internet" are the sites set up to capitalize on accidentally misspelled URLs. So many times over the years, missing or adding one letter to a big company's website directed me to things I'd rather not have been directed to. Of course, the most famous of these was whitehouse.com, which received an amazing amount of attention (and site hits) because many kids/adults/families looking for the official website of the president were pretty surprised to find what they did. (The official site is whitehouse.gov; now whitehouse.com is a real estate web site.)

9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good for you for being a responsible parent. And if it makes you feel any better, all kids think they have a mean mother. It's part of growing up. When you become an adult and you are on your own, you usually realize and appreciate the "meanness".

9:35 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

What I don't understand is if proper "security systems" are in place (and I have no idea how these things work, so what I'm about to say may make no sense), what harm is there in letting your children visit innocuous sites like PBS.com and ESPN.com? If by some stretch one link on PBS leads to a link that leads to a link that leads to bad things, wouldn't that just be filtered out anyway?
When I say "security systems", I am not talking about filters and the like, which I have been advised are less than completely reliable. I am referring to password protection to access the Internet on the family computers, and the kids are not aware of the passwords.

9:35 AM  
Blogger orthomom said...

Thanks essie!

9:36 AM  
Blogger Binny said...

OK, in that case, I guess it makes sense.

The contrast between network TV and the internet is so interesting, because on the one hand, you could argue that the internet is a lot more dangerous, has a lot more objectionable material, and should therefore be subject to a ban, like TV before it. On the other hand (my hand), you could make the case that the internet is also an invaluable resource of information that cannot be found elsewhere, be it medical research, community announcements, and Divrei Torah. I could never lend support to an all-out ban on something that, in moderation, can be so useful. Then again, I could never see myself in Lakewood, either.

9:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think any parent can disagree with any of this. My main beef with the Lakewood ban was the strong arm methods that they used to implement it. There is no reason, especially after they stressed over and over that the objective is to protect the kids, that they could not have educated parents about the dangers of the Internet and urged everyone to implement whatever safeguards are necessary. There was no need to resort to threats. It showed (to me, at least) a lack of respect for the parents as well as a lack of understanding of human nature.

10:34 AM  
Blogger AMSHINOVER said...

OM this sums it all up


oh and lkwdguy i posted just for you

11:58 AM  
Blogger Renegade Rebbetzin said...

You go, girl. My kids also think I'm mean, not only for the "absolutely-no-internet-unless-I'm-in-the-room" rule, but because I don't let them eat sugar-laden crap for snacks 10 times a day. But you know what? They still love me. A lot. :-)

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Check this out, NYJW monkey in chief gets an award and his paper, shockingly, publishes the story with a picture! You can read it here

1:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So far I haven't insisted on being in the same room with my kids using the computer because the computer they are allowed to use is right smack dab in the middle of the living room and I walk in and out all the time. I also set up a links page for them to click on the links from, so there is no "typing in the wrong address" stuff happening. No one visits a new site or clicks off-site without me right there, or at least that's the rule, and I haven't seen any infractions yet, and computer time in general is limited anyway. But I'm paying attention to this issue, because as my oldest gets older, (he's 8) it will become more of an issue, I'm sure.

Currently they are not allowed to use instant messaging, and while the two oldest share an email address, all in-coming messages pass through my inbox first, so they get no spam. Annoying as it is to screen all their messages (only from relatives anyway at this point), I do not want the yucky spam getting through, and I don't trust filters. We'll see how long that lasts, but they seem comfortable with it for the moment, especially if the alternative is no email.

At any rate, while I gave up TV a long time ago (don't currently have one) I'm not giving up the Internet, and my husband needs the DSL for when he works at home, so it's around to stay -- so we (and our children) need to learn how to use it responsibly.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Looking Forward said...

teaching children to use the internet responsibly is the hard part though. remembering mine and other people i knews early adolescence i dont think that 11 to 14 year olds in particular have any business on it with out heavy perental supervision. though there are ways i think to monitor ever site they go to...

that said i dread the time when i'm married and have to teach my kids to use the internet responsably. though i think educating kids to use the internet responsably involves teaching them to be mentchen in the rest of their lives, and i think teaching them to have a deep respect of other people.

dont know if this makes sense. btw pop ups are pure evil.

3:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have 14 year olds (I'm catholic by the way), and the use between homework and hobby isn't always clear. My 14 year downloads images for montages for Starwars - he's a big fan. He accidently clicked onto a site with Natalie Portman nude. I have now installed cyber-patrol and find it works very well (i've tested it). Just fyi for if and when your kids get older - like 17 or something. It has many features.

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

By the way, I found out about this because I was the "cyber-patrol" and try to monitor what's going on and am usually in the room. He acted funny once when I walked back in and I later checked the website history and realized what had happened. All my way of saying, I certainly agree with those who say restrict access in the first place. I was probably too lax. But using the cyber-patrol system can give him the freedom to do what I consider his legitimate and positive use of the internet at his age. Just my 5 cents.

3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Lakewood Internet ban made it to WCBS radio yesterday as well. I had to answer questions about it from a co-worker. I just can't imagine living in that kind of community. (And I don't watch TV.)

1:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend shared an experience where she had been looking up something innocent like a pair of funky shoes she had seen, so I think she typed something like "red shoes.com" Seemingly innocent (this was early days of the 'net), but it led to a vile and graphic porn site everytime you closed a window, 3 more would pop open.

She was mildly traumatized by that and became gun-shy about looking for websites. Point being, you can never know where a URL is going to lead, so I'm a firm believer in absolute supervision. And no chatrooms! I worked with a police officer who's in a special department that goes after sex offenders, and he says chatrooms are the most popular place for pedophiles, who pretend to be kids in order to establish "relationships".

The net's can be a scary place...

5:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's relatively easy to limit a young child to a few selected websites - which can cover almost all their needs for both research and entertainment.

Many security software packages offer both "black lists" of forbidden websites (allowing all other sites) and "white lists" of permitted websites (forbidding all other sites).

Here in Israel, my kids are naturally limited by the residual language barrier (they still don't read english all that well). They are more than satisfied with a handful of Jewish/general Israeli sites. If they inadvertently click a link leading off the permitted site, it's blocked.

The software we installed (and are very happy with) is called Watchdog PC.

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As fsr as "mean mother" goes, my Grandma used to have a local newspaper article on her fridge about "The Meanest Mother in the World", from easily the 1970's, maybe reprinted then. Quick (and approximate) recap:

The author spoke of *her* mean mother, who did not allow cake for breakfast, made the kids do chores, wake before noon on weekends, no dating until 17, etc. . . the punch line being, that as a mother now, she cannot express how much she appreciates her mother, and revels in being called mean by her own children, because it means she cares enough to be setting reasonable limits.

I'm with you - but I have it easy; we currently have NO internet in the house except my laptop from work (even DH doesn't use it, as borrowed property).

3:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for you to know that Lakewood is not alone. Yehsiva Gedola Merkaz Hatorah in Montreal has, just prior to Chanukah, sent out a letter asking parents and students to sign a contract stating that the children will not be exposed to the Internet whatseover and any such exposure may be grounds for expulsion.

Please note the differentiation in that the language of the contract does not state that there can be no Internet access at home, rather that the children cannot be on it at any time, with our without supervision.

Although we have had an informal policy of no Internet exposure to yeshiva students, this is a step up. This new development apparently come from a high school student downloading porn on CDs and selling them. The boy was expelled. In the following weeks the letter was sent out asking for everyone to sign. For those that haven't, follow-up phone calls have gone out.

10:46 AM  
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1:55 PM  

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