Isaac Kaplan

"Is it any wonder I've got too much time on my hands?"

Wednesday, June 23, 2004

Confronting the Media, pt. 1

Last August, I was looking at a mailing we received from my little brother's school. I it, they mentioned how they strongly discouraged all sorts of non-Jewish media. Movies to books and everything in between.

It's certainly easy to say hands-off to everything. There is no shortage of filth out there, stuff that can do irreparable harm to the impressionable mind of an elementary-school kid. As the old cliche goes, better safe then sorry. So there is reason to make the across-the-board ban and discouragement of all media.

But is this the way to go? I'd like to mention a few problems with this approach.

1) When something becomes assur, there's a great increase in the temptation of the kids. The maxim of "stolen waters are sweet" is certainly true when it comes to other temptations. After my brother's school banned the Internet, one of his friends started using it in the library. Oftentimes it's cool to do what's not allowed. In that case, a ban on media can have quite the adverse effect of what was intended.

2) At some point in life, we're going to have to face the media anyway. Kids in school face it all the time; literature class can lead to kids going to the library and reading stuff they shouldn't be reading. And nowadays, anyone who plans on getting a job outside of chinuch is going to be confronted with the Internet. Certainly anyone who goes to college will have to deal with media. So if we close our eyes, the media won't disappear. We have to deal with it. And perhaps this is exactly what we should be teaching our kids: you're gonna have deal with the media inevitably: it's not totally taboo or assur, but you've gotta be very careful with it. To totally ban it will either confuse the kids or cause them to rebel when they see how impractical a ban like that can be.

3) Many children are from families that have media all over their house. And we're not about to have 40-year old parents throw out their TVs, radios, and newspapers after years of living with them. So inevitably there will be mixed messages occurring. One day, a sixth-grader came to his house and threatened to throw out all of the newspapers and magazines. Yet this same kid was a huge Nickelodeon fan, with no plans of quitting! So the kid was quite the mixed-up bird. And the potential for a kid (especially an irrational youngster) disrupting shalom bayis and causing fights is rather prevalent. Maybe we should leave room for compromise.

I'll elaborate and delve deeper into both sides in Part 2.


Blogger Gary Student said...

Isaac, what you're saying is exactly the YU mehalech. They don't shun the media because they know it is nearly impossible to do so. Rather, they hold that it is important to know what's out there, but to be careful. I know a Young Israel rabbi with a TV in his home. His kids watch only muttar programming. They get the newspaper, but they read only the kosher articles. So they don't avoid it - they deal with it. They know that when you bite off more than you can chew, the results are disasterous.

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