by Becky Udman
TJP Parenting Columnist
A few weeks ago in Parshas Toldos, we read the well-known part of the Torah that informs us that our Patriarch, Yitzchak (Isaac), had become blind.
The Gemorah tells us that he became blind as the result of the second-hand smoke (yes, it was an issue even in Torah times!) from the ceremonial worship of idols that his wicked son, Eisav (Esau), served. However, Yitzchak’s wife, Rivka (Rebecca), wasn’t blinded by the same smoke.
One explanation is that Rivka’s father was Lavan (Laban), one of the most wicked people ever to live, was also an idol worshipper. From a young age, Rivka was exposed to the smoke from his idols and therefore was desensitized to the impurities.
What a powerful lesson this is to us as parents!
We are living in a culture today in which we and our children are surrounded with impurities, desensitizing us to what is appropriate. And the bar keeps getting set lower and lower.
The pollution of our planet is not just in the air, it’s on the air! We’re worried about our children eating junk food and harming their bodies, but often times we ignore the junk that’s entering their hearts and minds and souls, causing far greater damage.
And it’s becoming increasingly more harmful.
For example, many magazine covers bombarding us at the grocery store checkout counter would have only been available behind the counter with a cover on them just 10 years ago. The sad part is we don’t even think there’s anything wrong, because we have been exposed to these types of pictures and inappropriate text for so long, we think they’re “normal” and acceptable.
The language that d.j.’s (many of whom are now even complimentarily called “shock jocks”), comedians, and others on radio and TV use would have been bleeped a few years ago. Movies and TV shows geared at young people that are today rated “PG-13" would have received an “R” or higher not long ago. The lyrics of many rock music and rap songs-- along with their accompanying videos-- are X-rated, but we aren’t even embarrassed when our children hear them, we are so desensitized.
The Internet, cellphones, video games, satellite radio, Netflix, and hundreds of available TV channels on cable and satellite have created a whole new category of ways our children can be exposed to inappropriate material. The inappropriate content and apps made for these new media are creating teenagers who have “seen it all” by the time they’re 13. Even “regular” TV shows today have subject matter and show things that never would have been allowed just a few years ago. And texting has become a national obsession, especially among teens, with content unregulated and uncensored by parents. Ironically some parents are concerned about texting while driving, but not about the content of those texts!
Many parents just blow it off and say, “It’s not that bad” or “There are worse things out there,” or “I can’t deny my child something that all of his or her friends have.”
As we become more and more desensitized, we are creating a thirst to lower the bar even further, because we are not even aware that these exposures are damaging.
I am not saying that we need to raise our children in a bubble and not allow them to know or be involved in modern technology. What I am encouraging is for parents not to be afraid to set limits, have standards, and communicate a value system to your children, even though “everyone else” is saying it’s fine.
It is scary to think of the endless, negative situations out there that our children can potentially become involved in if they become desensitized to what is appropriate and what is not.
If our children and teens have access to these media and go unchecked by parents, the blurred vision with which they will view the world will make it very hard for them to make good decisions as they get older.
In the long run, children appreciate standards and limits, even if in the short run it may seem to them that they’re being unfairly denied. And it may be difficult for us as parents to set limits, but it’s ultimately in everyone’s best interest!
Mrs. Becky Udman is preschool director of Torah Day School of Dallas (TDSD), a facilitator in the Love & Logic parenting method, director of Camp Kesher, and the mother of 13 (six boys and seven girls, ages infant through 20).