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Dear Mrs. Bluth,

I like your column and read it each Erev Shabbos before my mother and sisters get to it.  I like the answers you give people; you sound like a logical person, not stuffy or with an “I know it all” attitude like most adults who talk down to young people with problems.  I also like that you sometimes give as good as you get (if not better) from some wise-guys who write to you.  So I decided to write to you and hear what you think about my troubles.  I’m not saying I will take your advice or anything like that, just that if it makes sense and you agree with me, then maybe I will try what you will suggest.  I am using different information (age, family members, etc.) so no one will be able to recognize me.


I am a yeshiva bachur, past bar mitzvah but not yet eighteen, so I there are still some things I have to check with my parents.  I am the oldest boy in a family of nine children and I am having a lot of trouble at home and in school. My friends have the same problems, but some of them have it easier because they more freedom.

For example, most of my friends have computers of their own with Internet or computer privileges on the family computer and they can go to any site they want without having to ask their parents. These guys also have I-pod’s, I-pads and smart phones, things I can only dream of having. My parents are paranoid and think I’ll get hooked on these electrical gadgets, so they will not allow them in our house. What they don’t know is that I can go to my friends’ houses and surf the net.  There are so many amazing sites to visit and I keep asking for a computer of my own, even one I couldl buy with my own money and share with my siblings, but the answer is always “No!”

Three weeks ago, my rebbe caught us checking out a questionable site on a guy’s phone.  There were about ten of us gathered around and we were so fascinated, we didn’t hear him coming.  The rebbe took us all down to the principal’s office, confiscated the phone and called our parents, and sent us home. For the next four days I was basically a prisoner in my own home. I was not allowed to eat with the family and my parents told me over and over what a failure I was and how I lost everyone’s trust and respect – as if I ever had it in the first place.

My older sister tried to comfort me by telling me what a dangerous place the Internet was and how many people get lost there and never find their way back again, yada, yada, yada.  She tried to convince me that our parents loved us and want to protect us from what we don’t understand.  What she doesn’t understand is that I can walk away from the Internet any time I want, all I want is to have it so I can search and learn about the world on it.  My oldest brother said I broke my mother’s heart with the shame of what I did, especially lying that I went to my friends’ houses all we did was study, play basketball or go for pizza.  My father is so angry and has stopped talking to me, even looking in my direction is too much trouble for him.  The other kids in the family tip-toe around me, trying to avoid any contact, as if I was a pile of manure smelling up their living space.

So that is where I am now, in cherem with no one to talk to and held hostage in my own home.  Someone is always checking up on what I’m doing (usually nothing), I can’t get phone calls or visits from friends and I’m being driven to and from yeshivah so I don’t hang out with the guys.  During school, my friends feel sorry for me, the few minutes I get to talk with them, as we have all been separated from each other.  The rebbe is like my daytime warden, until I go home to the night time prison.  I don’t know how much longer I can tolerate this before I do something drastic.  Please give me some idea of what to do.

Thank you for listening.



Dear M.I.A,

From your letter, you sound like a young man who is too young to enlist but old enough to know better. I am flattered that you hold my advice in such high regard, although after reading my response, you may think otherwise.  Whether you choose to take my words to heart or not is up to you, but being a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, I’m hoping you will take my suggestions as both a warning and a solution and that you will begin to act like the adult you think you already are.

I agree with you that being a very young person in today’s world is extremely hard, what with all the technological trapdoors, craters and canyons just waiting for naive, young, cocky and curious minds much like your own who wander off on their own. You are not the first young man lamenting his not being allowed to navigate the magical topography of the Internet, falsely perceiving it as portal to finding all the information you never need to know.

What the net is, for the young and impressionable, is an amazing illusion, offering wonderful places to visit, hiding a dark and foreboding side that is just waiting to latch it’s talons onto the minds of the young, creating a dependency for these addictive and destructive habits.

This I have seen with my own eyes, and if you think I’m making this up just to scare you, you are 100% wrong.  Far too many people who are in therapy will attest to that their afflictions and addiction all began because they were lured to the mystique of the Internet at too early an age.

As for your parents holding you hostage, their disappointment with you and your being at your wits end are all tied together. Being a parent is a tough job, we’re on call 24/7 trying to love, raise and protect our children from harm and, often, from themselves.  It is a thankless, painful and worrisome occupation as many children think they can do a better job.

Right now you view them as your worst enemies, while in truth, they are your best friends, your most powerful allies and the people who would lay down their very lives for you. What they want most is to be able to trust you, to be proud of you and see you grow into the fine, upstanding young man you have the ability to become.  So trust their judgement, regain their respect by abiding by the house rules, do well in your studies and do your share at home by helping out whenever you can.  Maturity is not measured in years, or height, or by how loud you yell.  Maturity is the sum total of who you are, what you do, how you behave and the respect you accord your elders.  Maturity is owning up to mistakes and not repeating them. Wisdom comes from understanding that there is so much a young man doesn’t know and must yet learn – and that the Internet holds none of these things for you right now.  In time, when you are older, wiser and more sure of your footing, you can attempt to use the positive advantages of the Internet.  But not now.  Not yet.

There it is in a nutshell, young man.  I’m sorry if this was not the response you envisioned. I’m hoping you will understand that even though it sounds like I’m on your parents’ side, I truly am on yours!

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