By: Crown Heights M.U.S.T. Committee
Photos: Menush Amit
M.U.S.T. (Mothers Unite to Stall Technology) Crown Heights hosted a community-wide event that has taken the entire Chabad community by storm. Schools from all over the USA, Canada, and even Australia have reached out to M.U.S.T. to find out how they can introduce this wonderful initiative in their communities and schools.
The feedback from hundreds of emails has been explosive and the M.U.S.T. committee is BLOWN AWAY by the enthusiastic interest. We are excited for M.U.S.T. to become a worldwide success!
M.U.S.T. is a groundbreaking platform encouraging parents to delay the age that children are allowed ownership of personal devices with internet capabilities. The program is successful when parents join together to create a pact, thereby removing peer pressure. Without the distractions and dangers of personally owned devices, children will thrive and succeed.
The Crown Heights community joined together for an evening of inspiration and empowerment on Tuesday night at the JCM. Hundreds attended the live event at the Jewish Children’s Museum, and close to a thousand more tuned in virtually to watch Simcha Minkowitz, a mother of six and a M.U.S.T. Crown Heights committee member, describe how she got involved, and how she felt that she was handed a “lifeline” to deal with her children’s technology use and ownership. Simcha described the devastating “loss of childhood that you could never get back” due to smartphones.
Dr. Eli Rosen expounded on the dangers of technology and social media to our youth, “I’m seeing something I’ve never seen before. An epidemic of anxiety in the children… Eleven-year-olds with anorexia…13-year-olds not going to school… And these are kids from beautiful families. These aren’t neglectful parents… And I’m seeing 15-year-olds who are frankly suicidal.. It’s profoundly disturbing.”
He also described the new epidemic of mothers handing their cell phones to crying children in his office instead of soothing them by reading a book or holding them on their lap. “This is the beginning of the disconnect, which is at the root of the epidemic of anxiety and all of its manifestations,” he urged.
Dr. Rosen compared constantly exposing children to technology, starting as early as two years of age, to giving alcohol to a young child which negatively affects a developing brain. Kids should be playing and connecting to the people around them, and not internally preoccupied with worry and sadness and feelings of inadequacy. He finished off by saying that giving our kids smart devices has been a “failed experiment” and that we need to build the momentum of the M.U.S.T. agenda so that children can develop healthily and happily.
Michal Klerer, the original M.U.S.T co-founder, spoke about the success she’s seen in the last four years since starting the organization. She described various types of pacts that can be created in older grades and attributed the program’s success to the united front coming from the parents. She encouraged parents to hold off for as many years as possible before giving their children personally-owned devices because it’s downhill from there.
Rabbi Motty Lipskier encouraged parents to take the reins. He even addressed the children watching the live feed from home stating that we believe in them. Assuring the children that their parents are doing this because we love them and want the best for them. Rabbi Lipskier described how the meraglim told Moshe, “We were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and we were like grasshoppers in their eyes.” When we lack confidence in ourselves, others sense it too. We need to feel confident in our decision to stall and stabilize technology, and our children will feel our confidence and belief in them.
He also described how difficult it is to get a large ship to change course. It takes a lot of organized effort and lots of time but once that turn is made, eventually, it’s smooth sailing. M.U.S.T. in changing the course of the ship. We are changing history for the children we love. It will take time and a whole lot of effort but it will pay off. And not just for our community. In his words, “What happens in Crown Heights does not stay in Crown Heights.” Indeed, we hope this program will take off all over the world!
In order to ensure optimal success of the program and to best organize our efforts, we encourage each school to appoint one or two coordinators to be in touch with M.U.S.T. Crown Heights. We will then gladly help coordinators appoint and train ambassadors for each class in their school. M.U.S.T. pacts should only be introduced by an official M.U.S.T. class ambassador who has participated in a zoom training session.
Please sign up on our website must-ch.org for more information about the first ambassador training session happening late next week. If you have any feedback or questions, you can email [email protected]
With Hashem’s help, we can and we will do this! The safety and wellbeing of our children depends on us.
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