Raising Chassidim in the Digital Age
by Mottel Kurinsky
This article first appeared in the Tashbar Magazine, a reader written by the students of Cheder Levi Yitzchok - Melbourne Australia. Read it online here
Raising youth is certainly one of the hardest things in life, but it is by far among the most important. It is so important that we prioritize it over almost everything else. Furthermore, a parent is “raising his child” even when he is not actively teaching them. Every action, word and gesture play a part in how a child will grow up and behave. When a parent adopts this mindset, they will come to realize that everything they do affects their child’s upbringing.
Technology in the home
In this generation, adults and children are from two completely different realms; a majority of adults are from the generation where technology was in its early stages or non-existent, whereas children growing up now are being raised in a time when technology is very advanced. Therefore, adults who are from “the older ages” remember their youth as a time when technology did not exist, or perhaps a time when it was beyond the scope of what they knew how to use. However, for a child born in the era of technology, it’s much like walking and talking. From a very early age he is using everything technology has to offer.
A person might think, “Well since the kids are so young, things they watch or see are not a big deal, because it won’t impact their future. Before long they will forget the things they saw. When they get older, I’ll restrict what they can access.” Based on this, parents allow unfiltered access to the internet and don’t necessarily supervise what their children are watching.
However, this is a flawed way of thinking. As soon as an infant takes their first breath, they begin their learning journey. Even if a child doesn’t understand what they are seeing or watching, which in most cases is not even true, it still leaves a permanent stain on his or her memory.
Although it may be true that exposure to technology poses a threat to the education of children, there is an issue with taking the opposite approach as well. If a child grows up without any access to devices, technology, etc. when he is younger, he will automatically want everything that he “missed out on’’ when he is older… which is obviously an enormous problem. So now, a person is left with two approaches (complete exposure and zero exposure) which are both problematic.
In order to resolve this issue, I have come up with a solution/recommendation:
A Bochur should have access to a device but only if it has a working and proper filter.
When a child is using a device, it must be used in a public area, where people can pass by, similar to the rules of yichud.
Each house should have a time when either the internet is turned off or devices are stored away until the next day. This time should be non-negotiable.
Recently, with the increase of online learning, due to Corona parents must bear in mind that since the majority of children are spending a lot of their day on zoom or other online websites, they are learning different loop-holes of how to get around filters. (To the extent that I would say; there is no filter in the world that a person cannot get around). For this reason, it is important for parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about the internet and the dangers it poses.
Being that children learn from their parents, it is important that parents are also setting a good example on how to use the internet in a safe and limited manner.
Once you have solved this ongoing problem, you can now start going forward.
We all know that it’s a very good thing for parents to make time to spend with, and speak with, their children individually. You can take those meetings and use them to farbreng with your child, and really connect with your child, to the point where they will open up and discuss their personal level of ruchnius and the like. Once you have reached this level with your child, you can now go on to help them achieve their goals, do extra learning, etc…
Letter from the Rebbe
To conclude, I would like to quote a line from a letter that the Rebbe wrote to a young boy, who had just started learning Chitas-Rambam; “My revered father-in-law, the Rebbe, would always bless youths, from whom he derived satisfaction, with the blessing that they grow to be God-fearing, Chassidim, and scholars. I am thus sending you this blessing: that you grow to be God-fearing, a Chassid, and a scholar. To a large extent, this is dependent on your own will: that you pray every day from a siddur, that you study diligently, and you observe the Mitzvos in which you are obligated”.
The Rebbe is saying that being a Chassid is not just being called a Chossid, being a Chassid means doing Tachlis, learning Chitas-Rambam, davening from a Siddur, etc…
Because of the dilemma that we are going through, most people are seeing that they have more time, being a Chossid means that extra time does-not exist. When a Chossid finds himself with “spare time” he uses it; to learn, to do Mivtzoyim, to talk to someone, etc…
This message of the Rebbe is a powerful way to combat the dangers of the internet. It is not enough to tell a child “don’t do this.” It also must come with encouragement to do something positive.
When a Chassid finds himself with spare time, and uses it to learn torah, do Mitzvos and go on mivtzayim, then im yirtzah Hashem, we will be zoche to a good new year with Mashiach.
Kesivah vachasima tovah leshana tovah umesukah
This article first appeared in the Tashbar Magazine, a reader written by the students of Cheder Levi Yitzchok - Melbourne, Australia. Read it inside here.