Terrifying Stats on Orthodox Teens and Internet Use

Terrifying Stats on Orthodox Teens and Internet Use

I just read some really scary statistics on internet use among religious Israeli teenagers…

A survey conducted among 912 Israeli religious junior high and high school students (1) by Maaleh and the Leshem Institute revealed that:

-The average religious Israeli teenager spends 6 hours a day on the internet
-Only 49% of religious teenagers use a computer equipped with an internet filter
-48% of religious boys (and 30% of religious girls) report having broken through their family’s filter in order to visit unauthorized websites
And this is the most disturbing…
-36.7% of religious boys and 24% of religious girls report having visited “immodest” sites.(2)

This survey was clearly published with the intention of shaking us parents up. And it has definitely succeeded in shaking up this Jewish mom.

So, what can we JewishMOMs do to keep our children safe from this growing trend of irresponsible and dangerous internet use?

The director of this survey and CEO of Maaleh, Rafi Kaplan, explains that based on this research and dozens of interviews with teenagers about internet use, he is on a mission to teach parents:

#1: The tremendous importance of installing internet filters.
#2: The tremendous importance, even once you have a filter, of supervising your children’s internet use by:
–Keeping your computer in a public space in the home
–Keeping track of the history tab on your browser in order to check out what sites your kids are visiting
–Talking with your kids openly about the dangers of the internet (3)

Kaplan explains, “I don’t have anything, God forbid, against filters, but it’s much more important to invest, in addition to filtering, in parental involvement in children’s internet use. And that is what I really want to say: Dear parents, even if you have made an effort to install a filter, and you have already moved to a different server and paid money, that does not release you from your responsibilities as parents.”

May these guidelines, please God, help us to keep our precious children safe!

(1) The survey was conducted among students from a wide-spectrum of Zionist religious schools—from typical National Religious to National Charedi. Results were published in the Olam Katan newspaper, Parshat Vayakhel, Issue 290.

(2) This final statistic is the most shocking, of course, and it’s also the most unclear in the whole survey. Since, as Rabbi Elisha Aviner says in his response to the survey, the survey’s respondents weren’t given a specific definition of “immodest.” We don’t know if the respondent is referring to a visit to a newspaper website with bathing suit ads, or to a pornography site. We also don’t know if the respondent is referring to a one-time visit that lasted 10 seconds, or to an hour spent every day at pornographic sites. This ambiguity suggests that this statistic might be inflated or not as troubling as it appears at first glance. On the other hand, teenagers who have visited pornographic sites would most likely tend to lie in their responses to this question. So the stat might even be lower than the reality. Whatever the truth is, this stat definitely hints at an extremely scary phenomenon.

(3) And what if you trust your children, and you know they would never ever purposely try to get past your computer filter? Do you still have to supervise them? Definitely! Just last week it took me a day or two to realize that my filter was malfunctioning, and my daughters were innocently wandering around the internet without a filter. A rabbi once told me that the effect of a pornographic site on a girl who arrives at it accidentally is potentially much more devastating than for a boy who finds his way there, by accident or on purpose. JewishMOM, keep your eyes open!

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Katelyn

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5 comments

  1. The part that I agree with is: “Talking with your kids openly about the dangers of the internet.” We have the highest level of filtering in our home but the fact remains that if someone wants to use the internet they can easily do it ANYWHERE these days. So only speaking openly with your kids can really protect them. Hashem Yishmor.

  2. 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.

  3. I think that internet is very much part of modern life these days so it wouldn’t help completely blocking, banning, whatever. Having said that though, it’s definitely part of parental responsibility to talk to our kids, put things into proper perspective and show a good example. I don’t think we have to throw in the towel, with G-d’s help, it is still possible to raise holy, pure children even in our confusing and challenging times, it just takes a lot of prayer, guts and effort on the parents’ part. Here are some more of my thoughts on the subject of computers and kids http://jewish-home-education.blogspot.com/search/label/Computers

  4. we do have to know that our children are constantly exposed but we also have to know that we raise children that can be trusted, because we as G-d fearing people, raise them! our children are not so fragile as we tend to believe, we teach them how to cope by being there for them, by giving honest answers even to difficult questions. there is no way for us to keep protecting them from the web or from any other hazards this world offers. we can provide them with good healthy instincts.

  5. Hadassah Aber

    The comments above raise a very valid point. Even if your personal computer is supervised and in a public location in your home, many kids around them are carrying devices that can access the internet as well. We need to discuss with our children the importance of keeping the purity of their neshamos intact.

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