In response to recent warnings of Internet predators and cases of pedophilia in public schools and yeshivas, the umbrella group for Bergen’s Orthodox rabbis is teaming up with two Teaneck council members to provide parents with information on how to keep their kids safe on the Internet.
“It seems like every week you open up the paper and it’s some type of [upsetting] headline,” said Councilman Elie Y. Katz. “There is a need to be proactive as opposed to reactive. It’s long overdue and we want to make sure we teach the parents [how to protect their children].”
Katz, Councilman Adam Gussen, and the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County are holding the lecture, “Who is in your home? What your children know that you should also,” at Young Israel of Teaneck on Thursday, Sept. 4.
Bergen County Sheriff Leo P. McGuire and members of the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office Computer Crimes Unit will discuss Internet and cell-phone safety tips, covering topics such as passwords, chat rooms, and key-stroke information.
“The access to technology and anonymous people is at a level that it was never at before,” Gussen said. “Unfortunately, virtually every day or every week we pick up a newspaper and hear a story of predators and child victims, and I think there are some prudent steps that we can take to help protect our children from the inherent dangers of the world at large.”
The lecture will focus on identifying the dangers, including predators’ abilities to reach children. Although speakers do not plan to mention specific cases, Katz and Gussen said that recent headlines were a stimulus for the event.
“It’s going to be developing some awareness to social networking and unsolicited text messaging, what access our kids have to these technologies,” Gussen said. “The intent is not to instill fear but to develop awareness.”
Katz sponsored a similar session last year, when he was mayor, at Teaneck’s Cong. Keter Torah on how synagogues and mosques can secure their facilities against intruders. Although Keter Torah’s Rabbi Shalom Baum co-sponsored last year’s event, this year’s lecture is the first the RCBC has cosponsored. Katz and Gussen say they are pleased.
“It’s an important issue that every community [should] pay attention to,” said Rabbi Pinchas Weinberger, president of the RCBC. “Our community is not immune to the dangers of society in general. Schools are aware of it, synagogues are aware of it. It’s something that requires constant vigilance.”
The session is closed to anyone under 18 because, Gussen said, parents may feel more comfortable admitting their ignorance of technology without their children present.
“So many of these technologies are today’s generation’s technologies,” he said. Gussen recalled an NPR report he heard recently contrasting how people born after 1980 use technology differently from people born earlier. Parents of children now facing these Internet dangers fall into the former category and need to be educated.
“I view [the Internet] a lot like the technology of dynamite,” Gussen said. “You can use dynamite to blow holes in mountains or in pizza shops. Dynamite is not inherently good or bad. If we don’t understand the tool and the way it can be used then ultimately it can represent more of danger than it needs to.”
For more information, e-mail Katz at email@example.com.