Rabbi Viener on Internet Addiction

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In HaModia’s Pesach edition there was a special supplement called “Kids of Hope.” I had two articles in there. One was entitled, “Girls At Risk” and the other was “Internet Addiction.” The latter included interviews with Philip Rosenthal, a therapist in the field and an expert on cyberspace crime, and Rabbi Yosef Viener, who offers to have anyone who wants contact him to be their internet policeman, so to speak. Here is an excerpt from the Internet Addiction article, specifically the part involving Rabbi Viener and his offer.

Rabbi Viener on Internet Addiction

Rabbi Yosef Viener is a Posek, Halachah Columnist for HaModia and Rav of Kehillas Shaar Shamayim in Monsey, New York. As the first address for the community’s questions and concerns, every Rav is privy to things the average person has little or no idea about. Rabbi Viener not only fields shailos and hears peoples’ problems from his immediate community, but from many people all over the world.

Far from an alarmist, it is uncharacteristic for him to state with unusual absoluteness: “There is no single problem facing the individuals and the community at large greater than this. Nothing even comes close.”

He illustrates what he means:

A first-year beis midrash yeshiva bochur I had never met called me up. He had been home for bein hazman and was about to go back to yeshiva. He asked me if he could come over. I said yes. He came into my study, sat in a chair and proceeded to cry for the next twenty-five minutes. I couldn’t even hear what he was saying.


He told me that six months earlier his parents had gone away for the weekend. The family had no video, TV or magazines. They were very careful not to keep any bad influences around the home. However, the father was a businessman who had a computer at home with internet access.

This bochur had been the star student, but could not resist the temptation and went on his father’s computer while his parents were away and viewed inappropriate things. Over the next eight or nine weeks he completely lost his ability to concentrate. He did teshuva, he told me, and tried to move on, but the images were still floating around in his head.

I told him that the worst thing he could do was get depressed over it. That was the yetzer hara at work. First it gets you to sin. Then it makes you depressed about the sin, often causing far more damage than the original mistake. I also informed him that he was, unfortunately, not the first bochur that came to me with such an issue.

In truth, I’ve had tens of cases like this involving young men with tremendous potential. In no time they lost almost everything because the parents were not smart enough or were too proud to admit that this was even a possibility.

Filters and Report Software

Rabbi Viener is not the type to merely describe a problem and rail about it. He is a very practical Rav and a man of action. Among the many shiurim he gives is one on the dangers of the internet and a system for combating the problem. Aaron Tessler, of Brooklyn, NY, attended the lecture concerning the risks of the internet, and grasping the dangers facing every family generously sponsored a mass duplication of the shiur. To date, thousands of copies have been distributed free to all those who are interested in protecting themselves and their families.

The system is two-tiered: filters and reporting software. A filter blocks sites that it deems problematic. A reporting system tracks the internet sites visited and reports to another person, such as a friend or Rav.

“Why do you need both?” the Rav explains. “Because no filter is perfect and everyone needs the deterrent of possible embarrassment in order to restrict their viewing to what is kosher. Reporting software reports every website that was visited. That report is then sent, either daily or weekly, to somebody you would be uncomfortable with if they found out you had engaged in behavior unbefitting a ben-Torah. Maybe a chavrusa, Rabbi or Rav.

“If you do not have that, the filter will probably not work too long,” Rabbi Viener explains. “But if you have a filter and a reporting system you have half a chance. It is still not perfect. Perfect is getting it out of your house.

“I want to be very clear about this. If you do not have internet, do not get it. And if you have it and it is not absolutely necessary get rid of it. All the advice in the world is not as good as not having the temptation around in the first place. The first thing you have to ask yourself is: Is it really necessary or are you fooling yourself? But if you really need it in your house these two things have to be in place. They are either free or require a small monthly charge. Most are downloadable and easy to set up yourself.”

(See below.)

Rabbi Viener shares another story:

There are many fine frum people who, unfortunately, have become addicted or exhibit a yetzer hara for this and the only way they can stop is if a Rav gets the emails, looks at them and then calls them up.

I have one fellow I met maybe once who approached me and told me he was addicted to the internet. He had been a very successful businessman, attended daf yomi regularly and sent his kids to the best yeshivos. What prompted him to come now? His wife recently found out about his habit and his marriage was on the rocks. He managed to hide it from her until then because he works long hours in his office. Little did she know that, especially since the recession, he was usually done with work by four in the afternoon. When she found out about it, though, she insisted that he come and speak to me.

He has now been on the system for a couple of months. I get a report every week. About three weeks ago the report came with a warning: “This report needs close review.” And then it listed the websites he had been to. And, boy, did it need close review! I emailed him back to call me ASAP. We spoke, he told me he was embarrassed and the last few reports have been excellent. Does that mean he will never fall in? No, but if he does he knows he has to explain it to me.

See the below for information about obtaining filter and reporting software.

Kedushah

These days many people are worried about the economy, their job and the recession. There are many reasons people might struggle financially. However, the single most important ingredient for success, materially and spiritually, is the presence of the Shechinah in one’s life. And the key to inviting the Shechinah into you and your family’s life is the kedushah in the house, Rabbi Viener explains.

“People seem to need parnassa more so than ever nowadays. Protecting the kedushah of the home is the key to greater siyatta dishmayah (heavenly aid) in everything, including parnassa. Maybe if you get the Shechinah back in your life you will have more hatzlochah.”

Either way, kedushah is its own reward and the very essence of what a Jew is put on this Earth for. The challenges of this generation are enormous. Surely, the devastating and penetrating influence of something like the internet is the yetzer hara’s last gasp to trip up people before the advent of Mashiach, Rabbi Viener suggests.

The challenges are great, but the rewards are greater. There are tools to stand up to this challenge. People just have to take advantage of them.

A SAMPLING OF THE MANY FILTER AND REPORTING PROGRAMS AVAILABLE

(This is an enterprise level product if you run a medium size business or larger.)

Internet filter review

For a rundown on these and other filter programs, see: internet-filter-review. Toptenreviews.com

IT IS CRUCIAL TO HAVE FILTRATION AND ACCOUNTABILITY

The accountability reports can go to more than one person. If you would like Rabbi Viener to be your accountability partner, his e-mail address is: info@TorahStream.org.

To obtain Rabbi Viener’s free CD on the dangers of the internet for yourself, your family and/or your community contact: info@TorahStream.org

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5 thoughts on “Rabbi Viener on Internet Addiction

    Jeremy said:
    May 10, 2010 at 4:34 pm

    Is there any url reporting software for blackberries. I have porn addiction and i want to be able to be accountable to someone with my blackberry use. thanks

      Yaakov Astor responded:
      May 12, 2010 at 11:44 am

      JNET says they have a filter for blackberries, but not URL reporting software for blackberries. You can call them at 1-866-866-JNET(5638) or 1-718-625-5638. Website: http://www.thejnet.com/

      If anyone has information on URL reporting software for blackberries please feel free to comment.

      Yaakov Astor responded:
      May 13, 2010 at 11:39 am

      I spoke to a real expert in the field, Philip Rosenthal. In fact, I interviewed him and used the informatiom to begin my article in Hamodia, part of which I have posted here (the excerpt here does not include the Rosenthal part of my article). He told me this morning that there is currently no working reporting software for blackberries.

      Nevertheless, I highly recommend getting in contact with him directly. He really is a great person to at least speak to. Here is his contact information:

      Philip Rosenthal by phone at 800-425-7919 or through email at pmr972@gmail.com

        dovi said:
        May 18, 2011 at 7:06 pm

        web chaver has a page dedicated to whats available for cell phones.

        see link below:
        http://www.webchaver.org/mobile.php

        they do have something they recommend for blackburys

    Hoodie said:
    July 29, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I appreciate all the information coming out about internet addiction. This is the first time I heard of Rabbi Viener – although I READ the Hamodia Pesach issue – I guess it didn’t register because – there was no problem in my home!
    Actually, there was, but I didn’t realize it. One thing I have not read about is the use of USB ports.
    We have an old computer, good for homework (two Bais Yaakov hight school girls) and last year “upgraded” to a “newer” old computer (meaning that with dial up I can email, and with enough time to wait, access sites like Chabad.org.- but no video, games, etc.) But we needed something that could use a USB port for school work.
    What I DIDN”T know, was that ALL kinds of things can be put on the USB port at the library and then downloaded on the home computer. One daughter likes to write – went to fanfic type sites and downloaded tons of truly innapropriate writings. We are now dealing with this.

    My point:
    1. You cannot keep putting this information out enough. It’s all interesting when you are sure there is nothing happening in your home – so it doesn’t get through at first.
    2. Information must be put out about the capabilities of USB ports and the need to monitor them with your child for content!

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