Tishrei is winding down. The Yomim Tovim are over, the guests are going home. My son is heading back to Yeshiva, and I’m apprehensive.
The apprehension is not because of his chavrusas, roommates, or his learning (although I worry plenty about that too). It’s due to what I have privately dubbed, “the phone wars.”
My son has a smartphone.
It’s filtered, the internet is blocked and there’s no service, only wi-fi. But my son is technologically advanced, it’s 2016, and I’m not as clueless as he thinks (or wishes).
Although the official rule in his Yeshiva (and many others) is no smartphones, the unofficial rule is that it’s OK to bring one as long as it’s turned into the Rosh Yeshiva once you get there.
The problem is what happens on the way to Yeshiva, when the phones are returned for a Shabbaton or school trip. Or when the phones that are “forgotten” and not turned in at all.
Because of all this, we don’t let our son bring his phone to Yeshiva at all. Hence the “phone wars.”
Without fail, every time it’s time to go back to Yeshiva, it starts. “I’m the only one without a phone in Yeshiva. Everyone else has one. What am I going to do on the way?” And finally, the trump card. “You know I can buy a smartphone in the store for $35? That’s what a lot of other kids do. One phone for the parents and hanhalah and another to do what they want.”
Please don’t get me wrong. Boruch Hashem, my son is a good kid. He tries really hard to do the right thing. But like any other teenager, he feels left out when everyone else has or knows something he doesn’t have or is not in on the conversation.
And in this case, when 95% of the other bochurim have phones, and he doesn’t, it’s hard. Very hard. I completely understand him. Peer pressure is awful. Even so, I don’t give in. The phone stays here. But I can’t help wondering why we have to go through this each and every time.
I don’t profess to have all the answers. But I do know this. If there was an official and enforced rule in Yeshiva that absolutely no phones are allowed, the majority of kids wouldn’t bring phones at all.
Obviously, consequences would have to be spelled out beforehand and the consequences carried out. Something along the lines of confiscating the phone and sending it back to the parents would probably work.
Throwing it out is an option too. But the same way a parent wouldn’t let their son bring non-Jewish reading material because it’s not allowed, most parents wouldn’t let their kids bring a phone either.
Clearly, there will be some kids that flout the rule. Either their parents won’t know, or won’t care. But they can be dealt with in the same way that those who break any major rule are dealt with.
Perhaps some might think I’m being harsh or overreacting, but there is no legitimate reason that a bochur who (presumably) is in Yeshiva to learn could need a smartphone. Extracurricular activities? Definitely. Sports? Shabbatons? Sure. A smartphone? Absolutely not.