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On the Agenda at Bais Shaindel: Beware of Cell Phones!

ywtext.jpgSchool orientation sessions are usually very predictable. You can expect to hear about school policies, schedules, tznius guidelines, and the like. But at a recent orientation session of Bais Shaindel High School in Lakewood, parents found themselves getting an education, a rude awakening, and chizuk about a very different topic – the dangers that cellular phones pose to teenagers.

According to Bais Shaindel’s menaheles, Rebbetzin Miller, addressing this topic publicly is crucial. “Many well-meaning parents are completely unaware of what the problems of cell phones are. They also are convinced that it could never happen to families like theirs.”

Rather than arranging for a drasha from a rov on the subject, Bais Shaindel asked R’ Shraga Weber, proprietor of Lakewood Beepers and a Bais Shaindel parent to speak. As a purveyor of cellular phones, Mr. Weber is uniquely qualified to address this topic. He has attended numerous meetings with gedolim and has spoken publicly about the dangers of cell phones on many occasions.

“The number one problem with cell phones is that of text messaging. Parents simply do not understand that it is absolutely addictive. Teenagers are completely obsessed with texting.” There is no one who knows about this firsthand more than Mr. Weber. “The father of a prominent family called me up and said, ‘I gave my children the best chinuch possible, sent them to the best yeshivos. Then my son gave me all the reasons why he must have a cell phone, and I eventually gave in and bought him one. Two months later he was out of yeshiva.’ ”

Mr. Weber provided parents with a detailed explanation of the ominous features that most cell phones have, from chat rooms to fashion shows to television.

Because of his occupation Mr. Weber is in a unique position: He knows both the level of danger of standard cell phones as well as numerous horror stories of victims.

“The other day someone brought in their daughter’s phone for repairs. “Upon accessing her account, I discovered that over a very short period of time she had logged nearly 7 ½ thousand text messages! Her parents were dumbfounded. The girl herself called up to explain that any inappropriate messages we may have seen weren’t really hers but from friends who had borrowed her phone.  I should add that this girl was from a regular frum family and school. The incident is so instructive, because it illustrates both the addictiveness as well as the shocking downward spiral of ruchniyus that are typical of call phone users.”

Because of the prevalence of forwarding jokes via text, it is not uncommon for a joke from a girl to reach that of an unknown boy – perhaps a brother’s friend. A casual response “liked your joke!” can be enough to trigger a relationship that can result in tragedy.

R’ Shraga Weber is a strong advocate of the Purely Voice “kosher phone.” And he sees it as his responsibility to persuade customers in his store to use only kosher phones. “Boruch Hashem there are hundreds and hundreds of Purely Voice users in Lakewood.”

What about just getting a conventional service contract with Sprint or other companies, and simply blocking the undesired features? Mr. Weber explained in his presentation why that is not a viable option.

“When a block is applied to cell phone plan, as soon as any change is made to the plan, such as adding minutes, the block is automatically removed, even if not requested. Besides, I myself did the following experiment: I called up Sprint and told the representative that I couldn’t remember my password but really needed to reinstall text messaging – could he please help me? Of course, the rep was happy to comply.”

R’ Shraga told the parents of his meetings with gedolim, including Rav Aharon Schechter, Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky, Rav Yosef Rosenblum, where they emphatically expressed their opinion that text messaging is the gravest danger that teenage boys and girls face today. In fact, Rav Rosenblum, despite his ill health, is actively involved in the Purely Voice endeavor, and encourages everyone to use only the Purely Voice kosher phone.

Hopefully, the trend will continue, and more and more individuals will heed the call of the gedolim and make the switch to the Purely Voice kosher phone. And in the merit of increasing kedusha v’tahara in our machaneh, we will merit to have the Shechina dwell among us once again.

(Dov Gordon – YWN NYC)

51 Responses

  1. “The father of a prominent family called me up and said, ‘I gave my children the best chinuch possible, sent them to the best yeshivos. Then my son gave me all the reasons why he must have a cell phone, and I eventually gave in and bought him one. Two months later he was out of yeshiva.'”
    This type of hype is uncalled for. I have spoken with a number of well-respected, frum psychologists and the fact is that when kids who go off the derech or leave yeshiva it’s always because of serious, fundamental problems. A child doesn’t leave yeshiva simpy becuase he discovers text messaging, the internet, etc. At most they are contributing factors.

  2. I am not a teenager and I have a regular cell phone with all the features. I never use the internet on it and I rarely text message. But, sometimes I text just to leave a message to one of my children, who doesn’t always answer her phone, but, will look at a message. I find this feature useful for that purpose. Also when in a situation where you want privacy and don’t want others around you to hear you talk, it is a good thing. What I don’t understand is (I’m from a different generation) is how strangers can text you. Where do they get your number from? If it’s just relaying messages to friends and family, I don’t see the harm in texting. I do see the problem when you chat with total strangers.

  3. If cell phones are being used inapproriately, don’t blame the hardware. Whether it involves students using phones to flirt, or play games instead of school work, or to cheat on tests, or whatever, the solution lies with the midos of the person, which is what the school should address. Any “hardware” solution anyone can come up with (and this applies to the world at large, not just our community), will be worked around by anyone who wants to evade the restriction.

  4. Wow, i know of a story firsthand where a wonderful girl got hooked up with a boy through her cell. By the time her parents wanted to stop the relationship it was too late! Here in Israel it is very common to have a Kosher Cell. Besides for the Ruchniyes part, its a pleasure that when i sit down to a meal with my husband he doesnt get 15 interuptions. I find it very annoying to be talking to someone while they are texting. But that is besides the point.

  5. Don’t parents look at their cell phone bills? It logs the number of text messages.

    As always, keep track of what your kids are doing, dont just say no.

  6. Cell phones ARE a real danger. There is (generaly speaking) NO NEED for a high school kid to have a cell phone, let alone texting.
    # 1 You have no clue
    # 5 You are so right

  7. QUESTION 1 would you throw a child out of yeshiva if he or she was caught with a cell phone??


  8. I myself have been a victim of being a slave to text messaging, one month i checked how many were used- 12,000! and I’m not kidding!

    It is seriously addicting. And it took a long time to fully part from it! B”h I stopped and limitize texting around 10-20 per a day if not less!

    By the way Rebb. Miller also stated that Texting is worse then taking DRUGS! At first I didn’t believe it, but its true

  9. I THINK A WAY TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM IS to have all schools and parents to make an age limit of 16 years old to haev a phone so there is no peer pressure

  10. Is there any way for people to make their points without using unnecessary hype?

    We’re all adults here… I don’t see how making comments like “the danger is here!” and other “chicken little” like remarks is helping anything.

    Act like an adult.

  11. “As a purveyor of cellular phones, Mr. Weber is uniquely qualified to address this topic”

    Actually he is a nogaya b’davar as he is in a business trying to sell kosher phones

  12. #1 – You’re right that a child doesn’t leave the Derech just from going onto the Internet … once … or text messaging … but these may very well encourage someone who is (already) straying from the Derech. And it might very well be “the last straw” – a very easy tool to help them go down.
    And #3 – there are obviously issues with the person (Middos, Ruchnius, Yiddeshkeit, and other) if they’re using these things for the wrong reasons… But – it doesn’t sound like you understand that these different types of “hardware” is like a strong current pulling someone down…fast! After a while, you can’t control it anymore. First you have to get someone out of the current . . . then you worry about telling him not to “swim” unattended again! You can lecture people all day about Middos, Yiddishkeit, . . . but these concrete devices are constantly “pulling” people in. That has to be stopped!! And then you can worry about how to improve Chinuch, Middos…Yes, if someone is already heading down the wrong Derech, he’ll find ways to help him. But we don’t have to make it easier for him by providing all these addicting and dangerous things!

  13. #9 – Just a point of interest – I personally know a boy who was thrown out of Yeshiva because he was caught with a cell phone – and yes, he went off the Derech! (No, not just from that. He was getting into “trouble” already. But since he was out of Yeshiva, and noone would take him in, he had a lot of free time and was able to get into A LOT more trouble . . . and went (way) off the Derech! At least if he had stayed in school, it would’ve kept him guided somewhat! Who knows…)
    #12 – Aside from your apparent resentment, either you yourself “suffered” from teachers whom you refer to, or are a teenager who needs some assistance, or you’re just an adult with no idea what’s going on! You can laugh from today till tomorrow. . . you should never know how real these “stories” are!!! It’s not something to be taken lightly! Would you also laugh if your child – horror or horrors – went into McDonald’s Chas V’Shalom???

  14. I very much respect those who want to protect the kedusha of our torah community be encouraging use of kosher cell phones. However, I would like to suggest that it is important to consider whether there is value to allowing young people, particularly teens, to learn to make responsible choices and exercise bechira. Alongside the discussions relating to which cell phones are appropriate, there should be a discussion of the underlying causes of excessive use of texting and texting inappropriate people. Perhaps by giving these teens a sense of responsibility and trust, most and hopefully all teens will have the strength to use cell phones for important uses. I only hope that the rabbonim work with mental health professionals in the frum community to ensure that stifling the ability to choose and potentially causing a lack of trust in teens, particularly where negative incidents would appear to be isolated and extraordinary (or as some have suggested, exaggerated), has a net impact that is harmful to the maturation process of teens.

  15. Additional dangers of texting addiction:
    1) They will spend recess exercising their thumbs, instead of their bodies leading to a decline in their health.
    2) They will do poorly in school and not acquire the needed skills earn an honest livelihood and instead turn to thievery and bring great disgrace to their communities.

    On the other hand, schools that frown upon physical activity and secular studies also bring on these two threats.

  16. Last year my son was traveling to and from yeshiva by airplane, so I wanted him to have a cellphone for traveling. I researched different phones, and I found something called Kajeet that is made especially for kids. It does allow texting, but the parent can control (via internet) who the child can call/text and receive calls/texts from. You can also control the times that the child can use the phone (911 is always allowed, and you can set specific numbers to always allow, such as home). You can also view online every the number for every call your child makes and receives.

    Kajeet is a pay as you go phone with access fees of 35 cents per day (about $10.50 per month) and 10 cents per call/text (you can get it for cheaper if you buy monthly talk paks or text paks). That’s another thing – why are the Kosher Phone plans so much more expensive than regular plans?

    I’m wondering why I haven’t heard Kajeet mentioned as an option in any discussions about kids and cellphones. Or why don’t the Kosher Phones offer similar services?

  17. Reb Matisyahu Saloman, at his Motzei Yom Kippur Vaad in his house a year and a half ago, emotionally pleaded with the oilam there not to let their teenage children have cell phones with text messaging.

    As far as I know, the Mashgiach is not someone who is into hyperbole. He is someone who knows exactly which “choices” to allow our children to become responsible from, and obviously felt that this is not one of them. He is on the front line of dealing with these cases on a daily basis, and with a Gadol’s foresight and wisdom realizes the inherent danger of text messaging, and the inability to control it.

  18. Re: #24. I agre whole-heartedly. The price for the kosher phone and its plan is outrageous. That’s one of the main reasons I don’t get it for my son. Instead I got him a Kajeet phone which allows me control who he can call/text and receive calls/texts from, as well as when. I submitted a separate comment about Kajeet phones.

  19. Re # 24 Excuse Me first of all you Mr. Jphone probally are in the phone buissnes and are scared you will lose sales, So you are knocking Mr. Weber. You are the one Nogeia Bidavar. Secondly I know a few people who bought the kosher phone the plan is 34.99 for 300 min , not 200. and there is no charge for the phone only if you go on 1 year contract, which no companys really offer. who i know got the phone is very happy with it.

    I know people who were personally affected from Text Messaging. All gedolim are strongly trying to get everyone to buy the kosher phone. I personally heared that at the metting in flatbush R’ A. Schechter Jumped up and scrame todays cell is worse than Chazar. Who Ever wants to get posined by the Yetzar Hora will not admitt it.
    I always know that the commision on Sprint, Nextel, cingular, verizon.. activations are much higher than Purely Voice profit, There is no one that can say That R Weber is trying to make more $, he can make much more $ with the trief activations.

    Rabbi Weber is trying to do only what the Rabbanim want and is not out to harm anyone only to protect us!!

  20. #12 something is terribly wrong with you, you just dont know what’s going on today & why on earth would you want to know horror storys that are not appropiate to advertize!!!

  21. Kosher Phones are by the way Exact same plans as sprint nextel.. cingular..
    They are not the same price as the fraud plans which is 100% genavah.

  22. one more thing i want to add is that all phones have fetures to Tv and all Internet acceses. Who would give their daughter or son a MILLION dollars to throw that out!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  23. For under $10 dollars anybody can walk into a convenience store and purchase a prepaid cell phone with text messaging. If someone wants to txt mssge they will

  24. #12 and everyone who accuses R’ Shraga Weber of selling what he speaks out against should know that he asked a sheila about what to do. He has lost hundreds of accounts because he tries to convince parents to buy only a kosher phone for their children, and the kids just walk out of his store and take their business elsewhere. So he is a tzaddik who puts his money where his mouth is…

    Those who would put their trust in their teens are totally missing the point. These kids (YES they are just kids) are so naive – they don’t even realize what shmutz is. They click on something by mistake or out of curiosity (“1000 girls are waiting to chat with you” – hey what’s that???) and then they are never the same. Look at all the comments about child molestors in our midst (and I am not disagreeing with them) and would these people put their children in a matzav like that with a cell phone and texting.

    BTW, one thing that hasn’t been pointed out is that a major part of the problem is that what you do with your phone is done in private and no one (including the most trusting parents) know about it.

  25. This article is min hashamayim. I just received my cell bill and looked over my son’s portion of the bill and was dismayed to find charges for international text messages from countries such as Russia and Vietnam! I was debating how to confront him and switch his phone to a Kosher one. I will show him this article and Hashem Yerachem!

  26. # 30 Again its totally inappropiate to mention I personally know a few and it very tragic and You can R ahoran Schechter if you would like.

    #29 If you are a frum Jew you would believe in Gedolim, again I was personally by that metting.

  27. Besides the very real problem of developing dangerous relationships via texting, cell phones also pose the following dangers Rachmonah Litzlan:

    – Driving while dialing/texting/talking on a phone can cause terrible accidents.

    – Numerous studies have shown a definite link to cell phone radiation causing certain types of brain cancers, especially in children with different hormonal levels. Also it has been proven to affect and decrease sperm counts when carried in standby mode in the pants pocket or the belt.

    – Giving a teenager thier own private phone number gives them a nisayon that is plain wrong. It enables them to connect and meet up with the wrong type of “friends” anywhere at any time. This would not be able to be done if they were limited to useing the school or camps payphones (or thier parents home phone)

    – There is an unlimited amount of prizus available to see on virtually any cell phone very easily. Don’t think that just because you didn’t figure out how to access this content, your teenager child won’t figure it out.

    – There is no such thing as a “kosher” cell phone. Once you teach you’re child that it’s 100% fine for them to keep a cell phone, it’s only a matter of a very short time before they go to a store and upgrade thier “crummy” kosher phone for a full featured phone. You have only yourself to blame for this when it happens. Is there such a thing as a kosher TV in the living room? Would you send your teenager to a dorm with a dvd player and not expect him/her or thier friends to watch pritzus eventually? It’s not a question of trust, it’s common sense parenting and chinuch.

    – There is also the issue of spoiling our kids that even though we expect them to live as yeshiva bochurim and bnos yisroel girs that they all must be equipped with cell phones.

  28. I am in my 50’s. I just started carrying a cell phone (only occasionally). I don’t text at all and I don’t use the internet on it. I have internet in my office. WE managed nicely all the years without these mishugaasen.
    I think a cell phone is needed when you are outside and need to make a phone call. We don’t need cameras and recorders on them

  29. Why doesn’t kosher phone offer the ability to restrict the numbers that can be called and from which calls can be received, such as with Kajeet phones? WOuldn’t that be even better than just no texting?

  30. I myself do not have a cell phone although sometimes I wish I do, This article just confirmed my decision – not to have a cell phone.
    As I mentioned before it is not healthy for any person to have one, not physically, mentally ( a cell doesnt teach you anything) or spiritually.

  31. For those of you crying “guns don’t kill”: Realize that the boy-girl relationships that are strengthening through text messaging would likely have never developed through actual meetings/phonecalls. Although the teen is to blame for entering the situation in the first place, there are certain boundaries of ‘flirty talk’ that are commonly crossed through text messages that the teen would never dream of saying to the person on the other end’s face. There is a certain looseness to texting that is pernicious for the unsuspecting.

    Text messenging – Yes
    Text messenging – No
    OKAY!! Now that both sides of the story have been given a chance, let us talk reality. My son walks home from yeshiva 8-9 blocks where there have been muggings +, I am relieved that he has a phone to call 911, shomrim, or home.
    Verizon offers a new service for “Parent Control”, you monitor and give the calling #s that are allowed to be made, text messenging to who, how many minutes and how many messenges. You can close off internet and video access simply. Young adults have to be TAUGHT control, bechira, choices, and respected as human beings. All the NO! NO! are out of style except for Saudi Arabia taliban life. Work together with your child…

  33. I am so happy this was put up for the public.this is so true in these days.,Mr Weber does this l’shaim shamayim.we must thank him.i witness a story how some one fell so far away from yidishkeit ..slowly .and it all started from ONE text message.

  34. r’ webber is absolutely right as is the hanhala of bais shaindel but i ask all readers and comment posters if even one neshoma is lost due to texting or internet isn’t that reason enough for the small sacrafice of voice only phones for all of us and anyone saying that they know better is to blame for all future destruction caused by this epidemic

  35. well said, #49.
    i agree many more ppl would switch if they figure out a way to make it cheaper.
    BUT that’s not an excuse to ignore the problem!
    i’m a yeshiva bochur in a very frum yeshiva and i will tell you that i myself fell into such a situation. i also know of 2 others personally.
    i beg you to believe it!

  36. When are the manufactures of Cell Phones, going to make them safe for the user? There may be a connection to Brain Cancer with the use of Cell Phones. The same thing goes for our computers. Do any Cell Phones and Computer Companies provide products that filter harmful radiation from the Screens?

  37. My daughters school has ossured cell phones that have texting capability. Unfortunatly the only option they offered was a plan sold through a parent in the school costing $42 a month. There is a company that sells prepaid phones called tracfone. I contacted the head of the company and he had the texting deactivated on my childrent’s phones. The phones are deactivated in a way that the kids cannot reactivate it. The company has to manually deactivate each phone. The phones are cheap starting at $10 and you purchase as many minutes as you want or need. They are a wonderful option for those that do not want to pay for a separate plan for each child. My children need the phones because they walk home in the dark in neighborhoods that are’nt the best. They know that we pay for each minute and these phones are not meant for shmuzing purposes.

  38. al the numbers that a phone has texted to, all internet acces, and all tv watching is on the monthly cell phone bill. all the parents have to do is read it. and i believe that these “texting = drugs” storied are very exaderated.

  39. #55,

    They can’t be made safer by design. They operate useing the principles of ionizing radiation. Unless you wrap it up in a heavy, lead container you are exposed to the radiation. Of course the thing won’t work if it’s enclosed in lead.

    It’s much more dangerous useing a cell phone than being exposed to a computer monitor. A cell phone must emit a MUCH higher degree of radiation to operate than a monitor and you hold it right up to you’re head while useing it with only a thin eardrum protecting your brain.

    Earpieces are actually even worse because the wires channel up the radiation to you’re ear even more directly than when you hold the thing against you’re head.

    It’s a multi, multi billion dollar industry and therefore can not be shut down or crippled by any government intervention.

    Be smart and responsible for you’re own sake. Use a payphone instead.

  40. Let me just make this very clear for all those who still doubt there’s a problem. First please read #49!
    I’m a yeshiva bachur in a very frum yeshiva and B”H a very shtark learner. I will tell you that although i’m not the type you would expect such a thing to happen to, I MYSELF fell into such a situation a little while ago bec of texting – and yes #12 – laugh all u want (no pun intended), but “nice joke” is exactly how these things start!!! I LIVED THRU IT!! (again i personally know of 2 others!!) B”H we recognized the problem and put an end to it. and B”H things r getting back to normal.
    But there are so many others who fall into these traps and fopr wtvr reason don’t get back up, Hashem Yeracheim.
    I hope i made myself clear. May Hashem help us all fight our battles and overcome our yetzer hara. And may we see the Geula Sheleima with the coming of Mashiach, B’meheira b’yameinu, Amen!

  41. good point ‘jphone’ but as some people need it cuz they come home late their parents dont want them walking in the street at a time that it is empty with no way to contact someone if something happens so they will need it out of yeshiva not only in yeshiva

  42. if even one neshoma is lost due to texting or internet

    Ah, yes, the “if even one…” fallacy.

    By that token, we should ban corded phones. If even one person is saved from strangulation it’s worth it.

    If even one life can be saved by banning automobiles (except for emergency vehicles) we should do it.

    If even one neshoma can be saved by not having secular studies at school we should do it.

    If even one neshoma can be saved by not allowing children to have contact with other children, we should do it.

    The point is that we, as a society, decide that certain societal benefits are worth the loss of a certain number of lives. If you *truly* believed in the “if only one…” argument, you wouldn’t do anything that involved the least bit of risk.

    The Wolf

  43. My kids are definitely going to have a cell phone!!!
    There will only be 5 buttons on the phone:
    1. Mommy
    2. Daddy
    3. Bubby & Zaidy
    4. Saba & Savta
    5. 911
    There will also be a built in GPS 🙂

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