I’ve been reading your e-mails for quite some time now. I’ve noticed that most questions are regarding younger children. Although I have a few younger ones, my question is concerning my 11th grader. He goes to Yeshiva very early in the AM and comes back late at night. When he arrives home, he immerses himself in his phone and the computer. It’s all filtered, but all he does is play fantasy ball (still don’t know that that means). I know he needs down time, but I want him to be a real person and not live in fantasy land. My husband is a Rav, and he feels my son should be spending more time learning at home. We were wondering if you would answer a question about teenagers, and if so what your thoughts are. Please keep my name and location private. Private – No Location
First of all, thanks for reading. I have answered questions about older kids, but I try to focus on questions that seem to have a common denominator. This is why most of the questions I reply to are somewhat short (yours is the longest I’ve ever answered). Anything that’s too specific is usually not generalized enough to respond to in a public forum.
Many of my articles tend to deal with questions and responses that can help a wider spectrum of parental concerns, rather than being too specific. A majority of the emails I receive concern younger children. Your question, however, is certainly an issue which we encounter in many families, across many communities.
First and foremost, you are not alone. I recently spoke to a Chassidishe father who lives in Williamsburg, and he has the same problem. He told me that he would never admit it publicly, since his kids are not supposed to have smart phones or internet access. However, in his own words, “I fear that my teenagers are relying on electronic devices for companionship.”
Let’s start off by empathizing with your son. He spends over twelve hours in Yeshiva and he needs some downtime. These days, children associate electronics with relaxation, and it makes sense. Many adults “Chill out” by watching a video, playing a word game or even reading an ebook. It’s only natural that children feel the same way. There’s no denying that he needs some time to relax, and this will help him unwind.
This leaves us with two important questions.
Regarding what your husband wants, I don’t think that’s something that’s even worth discussing, since there are so many variables involved. (What’s your son’s relationship with his father? Does he want to learn extra? Does your husband put too much pressure on him?) Let’s skip this part of the equation and focus on what your expectations are. You aren’t happy with what he’s doing, but do you have any other suggestions?
Which brings us to the second question. What can you do about it? Here are my thoughts. As I’ve written many times, many of these will not work. You need to know what’s appropriate for your situation and your child.
Have a wonderful Shabbos.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.