Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Internet dangers: Family & personality risk factors

In frum circles there is a constant clamor against the Internet as something which must be banned, censored and controlled. The director of one major organization told me that the greatest threat to our community is internet. Ignored in all of this - as with other issues such as off the derech children - is the failure of our family, community and schools to address personality risk factors as well as interpersonal and social risk factors that they create or fail to ameliorate. Internet isn't simply some external evil created to destroy innocent soul. It is a powerful tool for good and evil. It harms those who are susceptible. Those susceptibilities need at least if not more attention as the banning and controlling of internet access. This denying of at least contributory significance is a major concern in general with the way we deal with problems. We need to stop automatically placing the burden of responsibility on external factors. We need to stop say "He or it made me do it."

Aish HaTorah by Rabbi Keleman

The Necessity of Identifying Risk Factors

It is clear that there is a need to protect one's children from the distractions and corrosive elements of the net. Limitations to Internet access, the use of filtering software and pre-filtered Internet providers, placement of computers in highly visible areas of one's home are all good ideas.

Ultimately, restricting Internet access is a necessary but insufficient solution. But what is needed is healing the personality weaknesses that virtually guarantee some individuals will fall victim to Internet temptations. Studies show that those most likely to get into trouble are not deterred by limits on Internet access. Given the net's ubiquitous presence, they will find a way to get online -- at the local public library, if not elsewhere. Therefore, a key challenge to parents and educators is identifying the risk factors and the individuals most at risk.

Researchers describe four pre-existing conditions that put an individual at high risk for getting into trouble on the Internet.  They are: lack of family bonds; low self-esteem; inability to express opinions and questions; and inability to socialize.

1 comment :

  1. Since your child won't remain a child, and has to learn how to be an adult with internet access... In addition to having some sane internet policy (and I do not consider "ban it all" to be viable) you need to develop habits and priorities to take them beyond the age when you can make such rules.

    If a boy has a cheisheq for learning, such that whenever he's around the internet he thinks of,,,,, etc... Or eve if he is so into building things, or math, or some other interest that that's the "neighborhood" he visits on the internet, these issues are far less pressing.

    More than banning, we need to teach the right habits. One of those is, learning to limit things so that it doesn't take over their time, and so that they don't wander around in other neighborhoods.

    On a related topic, I attended RLK's lecture No Child Will Be Left Behind (live, not online), and I found his solutions to how to raise our kids so that far fewer go off the derekh to be simplistic to the point of unworkable. Beautifully presented, though.

    I fear this article suffers from similar (although less extreme) issues. RLK concludes: "The challenges and threats posed by the Internet leaves us no option but to strengthen family ties and teacher-student relationships; to stress in our educational approach and behavior the essential greatness of being human; to encourage questions and open discussion, especially about issues related to sexuality and religion; and to raise a generation who will seek marriage partners who are above all emblems of refinement and integrity. Parents and teachers who recognize these challenges can adjust to modernity and raise a heroic generation. Those who fail to see this hairpin turn in the path towards normalcy could lead their children and students over a disastrous precipice."

    No one would argue, I think. But each element of this advice is a larger how-to question than the original!



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