The New York Jewish Week wrote about the phenomenon known as “Half-Shabbos,” in which teens who are otherwise Sabbath observant use their cell phones to text their friends.
When I asked my kids if this is common in Israel, they said that they had first heard about it from me! They haven’t seen it here so far.
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According to the article:
Texting on Shabbat —œis probably more prominent [in the Modern Orthodox community], but it is by no means exclusively there,— Rabbi Goldmintz wrote. —œSomeone once suggested that it all got started when observant kids signed on after Shabbat and realized how much their non-observant friends had been communicating over Shabbat and they didn’t want to be left out ever again.—
Annette Green wrote on Facebook:
The strange thing about this article is the expectation that it is the school’s problem. Where are the parents? If you don’t want your child to text on Shabbat, you ask them to give you their phone before Shabbat. If they won’t, then you discuss the issue with them. I don’t expect a school to parent my kids, especially not on Shabbat!
I agree with Annette that the parents have to take responsibility for this, especially since it is not during school hours (unless it’s a school program). I’m not sure about asking the child to give up the phone straight off, because the child could assume the parent doesn’t trust him or her. I would prefer to find out whether the child was tempted, then ask whether it would help for you to hold on to the phone.
One commenter on the article prevents overnight guests from texting by asking everyone to put their phones into a “muktza basket,” for articles that may not be used on Shabbat. Texting guests chose not come for a return visit. I don’t use my phone on Shabbat, but I think the request would put me off.
Requiring a child to give up the phone might work in the short term, assuming the child doesn’t acquire another phone. Parents are responsible for education, but have little control over their children’s religious observance. Soon enough, they will be making their own choices.
Do you see this problem in your community? What is the best way to prevent it?
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