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Childhood Privacy

Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

Childhood Privacy

Yechiel Shaffer

privacy-1

Parents want to share their pride and joy with the word or anyone who follows their newsfeed on Facebook. And those moments are worth capturing... a child's first words or when they begin to crawl, their first food and the day to day life of parenthood. All these achievements help us appreciate the sheer greatness of being alive and present in the moment. Too many people are too busy (for more info click here) and miss their children's most precious moments. I once led a trip of teenagers through the most horrific place on earth, the concentration camps in Poland. There was one student who throughout our tour took as many pictures as he possibly could. He viewed Poland through the 3 inch window screen on the back of his digital camera. When approached about this his response was "if I view it outside of the window of my camera - then this place is real, I'm not sure I can handle that." This young man had impressive emotional intelligence but also a concerning fragility of mind.

His point though is very profound. If we spend all of our time as parents trying to capture those Facebook-post-worthy moments, we run the strong possibility that we view the special moments of our children's lives through the lens, of well... a camera lens.

Balancing capturing those moments for eternity while being present in the moment has to be a deliberate, cautious decision of every parent.

When Yaakov begins to feel the heat (Bereishis Chapter 31) from his Father-in-law, Lavan, he receives instructions from God:

בראשית פרשת ויצא פרק לא

ג) ויאמר יקוק אל־יעקב שוב אל־ארץ אבותיך ולמולדתך ואהיה עמך

3. And the Lord said to Jacob, "Return to the land of your forefathers and to your birthplace, and I will be with you."

Yaakov was to return to his homeland and begin the next stage of his spiritual growth. There was one complication, this would meaning pulling Rachel and Leah away from their home, away from their (evil) father, Lavan. While they are committed to their beloved husband, Yaakov, separation from family can take sensitivity, effort and privacy.

Yaakov was interested in discussing his intentions to leave Lavan with Rachel and Leah:

בראשית פרשת ויצא פרק לא

ד) וישלח יעקב ויקרא לרחל וללאה השדה אל־צאנו

4. So Jacob sent and called Rachel and Leah to the field, to his flocks.

Why does Yaakov call a meeting in the middle of the field far away from civilization?

The Medrash Aggadahrecords an insightful observation:

מדרש אגדה (בובר) בראשית פרשת ויצא פרק לא

סימן ד

ד] השדה אל צאנו. מכאן לאדם שרוצה לדבר דבר סתר יצא לשדה ויספר במקום שאין שומעין אותו בני אדם, שאזנים לכותל ואזנים ליער, אבל בשדה אין כלום

To his flocks: From here we can learn that a person who wants to discuss something private should go out to the fields, to a place where no person can hear, the walls and forests have ears but in a field there is privacy.

If you require secrecy, take the necessary precaution to ensure that you are in a completely private setting.

All that being said, our children's development and achievement distinguish them as members of the human race. Those first words are more then a cute moment - they define us as humans. With a concern for missing out on these human moments by viewing them through a camera lens, one must be acknowledge that by sharing them with the electronic world we are voiding them of the private and sanctified nature. Perhaps one aspect of Kedusha is its private nature - while we want to share cuteness with the world, does this publicity dilute our ability to focus on the incredible miracle that is childhood development?

At what point does posting the intimate moments of our lives on Facebook prevent us from recognizing:

תהלים פרק קד

...כד) מה־רבו מעשיך יקוק כלם בחכמה עשית

24. How great are Thy works, O LORD! In wisdom hast Thou created them all

There is no doubt that there are moments to share and moments to keep private. It is for no one person to determine another persons privacy policies - just to encourage that a policy exist.

What memories are appropriate to share with a 1000 of our nearest and dearest electronic buddies and what moments are just for us?

Questions for further discussion:

Do children have rights to privacy?

As parents are we supposed to act as their advocate in ensuring their privacy?

At what point does it become insensitive to those who struggle with infertility to post baby pictures?

What will the digital life of our children look like if there is an online record of their activities at the youngest of ages? What impact may that have on their futures?

Does Facebook deepen relationships with friends? What role does it play in creating meaningful moments between acquaintances?