Posts tagged " privacy "

Smile – Your Parents are Watching

August 4th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting 4 comments

Sometimes, the connection between my childhood and that of my children and their children seems as if it should span hundreds of years rather than decades. That is certainly how I felt reading an article guiding parents who are considering allowing  the use of facial recognition technology by their children’s camps. After all, who wants to scroll through dozens of pictures of other people’s children in order to find pictures of one’s own offspring? The technology would allow parents to immediately zoom in on their child as the counselors and administrators document activities throughout the day.

To be sure, as the article mentions, there are privacy concerns. Will others have access to the pictures, what if they are stolen, etc., etc. I want to raise a different concern. Do our children really need us looking in at every moment of their lives? Maybe, any pictures at all beyond the official bunk shot are actually an intrusion that we should reject.

In the quaint, ancient times in which I went to camp, our lives there were separate from our lives at home. Once or twice a week, camps demanded postcards or letters to our parents as the price of admission to dinner. Some kids wrote one sentence, others wrote missives. We did not have to worry that our disappointment at being the last one picked for softball or our elation at winning color war would belong to anyone other than ourselves. Camp was a place where we could break out of molds, explore new interests and flex our personalities. It was a medium of growth partially because only we chose what to share with our parents. Did a “non-sports” kid spend extra time shooting baskets? Did a quiet dreamer try out for the play? Maybe the picky eater devoured everything in sight when no other options were available and fresh air and exercise stimulated her appetite. No one was going to ask us about inconsistencies with year-round behavior.

We read of parents calling college professors and even bosses to advocate for their children. We read of twenty-somethings unable to transition to adulthood. We see how many people live their lives with an eye to how they look on social media rather than on who they are. There are all sorts of technical concerns with using face-recognition technology, especially as it relates to children. Yet, it might still be damaging even if it is 100% secure.

  

Shhh! It’s Private

July 28th, 2019 Posted by Practical Parenting, Your Mother's Guidance 2 comments

A ‘Your Mother’s Guidance’ post by Rebecca Masinter

Numbers 24 contains the blessings that the prophet Bilam said to the Jewish nation when he was hired by King Balak for the opposite purpose.  Perhaps the most famous line of all of his prophecies is one that Jews say as part of each morning’s prayers, “Mah tovu ohalecha Yaakov mishkenosecha Yisrael.” “How good are your tents, Jacob; your dwelling places, Israel.” 

Rashi, one of the great transmitters of ancient Jewish wisdom, explains that the goodness of the Jewish people’s tents is that they were arranged so that the doorways of the tents were not facing each other.  No family could look through their tent entrance and see into another family’s home. Even though a camp of over a million people may seem to be a place where privacy is lost, the Jewish camp was deliberately structured to create and protect privacy.

There is so much I want to say on this and so much for each of us to think about!  For today, I’d like to focus on the value of creating and protecting privacy for each family.  We live in an age where on all levels, privacy is being lost.  Basic assumptions that we used to have of what was protected and private information are overturned as so much information is now public and easily accessible.  Since the culture is so overwhelmingly one that does not protect privacy, I believe we, as mothers, need to be proactive in teaching our children the Biblical value of privacy, and not just assume they will pick it up or understand it on its own.

For example, I live on a block with many wonderful families and many, many precious children.  Fairly frequently an emergency vehicle is called to our block.  The innocent natural inclination of children is to stand around in groups watching. What child isn’t fascinated by fire engines and ambulances?  In order to teach my children privacy I make a point of calling my children inside when an emergency vehicle is outside and we close our window blinds.  They know that at that moment we aren’t able to help the family that called for assistance, but we can give them the dignity of privacy. We can proactively choose to not look.  I feel strongly that this is important for me to teach my children.

Similarly, when I get off the phone there is often at least one child who asks, “Who was that?”  You would think they would learn by now that I don’t answer that question!  I say, “It was someone calling to talk to me, not you, so I’m not going to give out their name.”  I’m not trying to hoard information or act as if I’m not being open with them, rather I am teaching that privacy is important and if there isn’t a need to share someone else’s information, I won’t do so.

I believe that the message my children also receive is that just as I’m protecting other people’s privacy, so too I will do that for them as well.  I hope it’s understood that I won’t read their diaries, listen in on their calls, or enter their rooms without knocking.  Privacy is important!  (Just so you know, as far as computers in my home we stress that nothing that happens on a computer is private.  Anybody can access it even if you think it is secure, and we do monitor our children’s computer usage, openly telling them that we are doing so.)

As always, and I haven’t said this in a long time so new readers may not know how I feel: I can only share with you what works for me and my family, I don’t believe that I or anyone else can tell you what you should do with your family.  God gave each of us the wisdom and insight to know what is best for our families and please don’t take anything I share as anything more than what works for me.  As always, my hope is that you will listen with an open mind and then apply these thoughts in a unique way for your family.  Privacy is an important Jewish value, and I believe we can all think about how we teach it and model it in our homes, but your ways may be different from mine and that’s terrific!

I feel like a stranger in my own home.

October 17th, 2018 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 27 comments

My husband (second marriage for both of us)  and I live in a 2 bedroom 1 bathroom house. Our 24-year-old nephew is living in the house with us for the purpose of learning my husband’s trade and going to college part time. I am feeling uncomfortable with this arrangement as he is not my blood relative and he has asked me if I am “trying to give him hints” which I don’t think I really answered at the time due to being caught off guard.

Later I explained to him I am not his friend, I am his aunt. I see my role during this time as helping him to get up and out on his own. I told him he needs to go out and make friends of his own age. He moved from another state and has not made much of an effort that I know of to be social.

I never explicitly talked about the “hints” comment with him, but mentioned it to my husband who said we don’t really know what he meant by that but if it ever comes up again they will have to have a man to man talk.  I tried to not worry about it, but am as careful as I can to always dress very modestly, and try not to be alone with him.

He is doing well in his work but I feel profoundly uncomfortable with this arrangement. I told my husband I would like to be able to shower in our camper in our yard and I even said I would be ok with living in the camper until we are able to find another way to work things out. My husband is not in favor of me living out there but is ok with me showering out there, however he has not had time to set it up for showering yet.

I sometimes shower in the middle of the night when not too tired or wait until the weekend to shower, when our nephew goes to stay with his birth mom, step dad and half siblings about an hour away. He is supposed to be with us a year.

Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Susan, please share your thoughts with me on this.

Dear Acea,

We know exactly what we want to tell your husband, but unfortunately he isn’t asking for our advice. Will he pay attention to our words? If not, you need to find someone to whom he will listen. If there is no one (or no one who will give the correct advice) then this is one of those times where you must stand up for yourself with strength and determination.

The short answer is that this is unacceptable. It isn’t just a minor issue.  It is absolutely and completely not ok. Your husband has an obligation to provide you with a home in which you feel comfortable. For you to need to shower in the middle of the night and feel nervous and on edge in your home means that he is failing in his duties.

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Exposed

May 16th, 2018 Posted by Susan's Musings 23 comments

Even as I wrote it, I was disturbed by my last week’s Musing. The Musing’s premise was that we shouldn’t be surprised by hypocrisy in our politicians. I think, sadly, that this is true.  When many citizens demand that elected officials sanctimoniously parrot standardized phrases and then vote on the basis of those politically correct formulations we shouldn’t be surprised that the words of those running for office don’t match their personal actions.

This is not confined to politicians, of course. Our society keeps on pushing people to say one thing and think, believe and do another. For example, for many years now students taking a variety of exams, have been forced to choose between marking what they know to be the officially correct answer or responding with the truth according to their beliefs and, often, according to science. Recently, the MCATs, taken by aspiring doctors, added ideological questions that compel religious Christians and Jews to make exactly that deeply disturbing choice.

However writing about Eric Schneiderman, who resigned as New York’s Attorney General after allegations of disturbing personal conduct were made, troubled me. This resignation follows a pattern in a continuing series of stories that fling private matters into the public realm.

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Telling All on Facebook

November 16th, 2016 Posted by Ask the Rabbi 3 comments

Question:

I have a son-in-law who feels a need to confide in Facebook as if this is a close personal friend.  What would motivate a person to spill their guts on social media?

Susan T.

Answer: 

Dear Susan,

Society often swings from one extreme to another. I think that most of us laugh when we read memoirs from earlier centuries that speak of close family members not acknowledging a pregnancy until the baby arrived, but surely we have gone overboard in our ‘spill all the beans all the time,’ culture.

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My friend is a snoop!

June 3rd, 2015 Posted by Ask the Rabbi No Comment yet

Question:

While I was asleep, a friend of mine had the nerve to look at all the texts on my phone. Now, that friend is confronting me about some of what he read, stuff that he would not even know if he had not invaded my privacy by looking at the text messages. I am quite upset and don’t feel I owe him any explanation about what is, frankly, none of his business.
 
Please advise me of your wise opinion on this matter.
 
Please respond as soon as possible!

∼ Leah S.

Answer:

Dear Leah,

Our tagline is ‘ancient wisdom for modern problems,’ so we’d like to give you an answer that dates back about 1,000 years. At that time, a leader of the generation in Germany, Rabbi Gershom (960-1040), decreed that reading other people’s mail was illegal.

How can this be? Are we to understand that up until his time people routinely read one another’s mail?  Considering that ancient Jewish wisdom on Numbers 24:5 explains that the enemy, Balaam praised the Jewish people for taking care to respect each other’s privacy while in the desert, was prohibiting the reading of other people’s mail truly a necessary step forward?

The answer is that this was not an advanced, breakthrough ruling. Rather, it was an acknowledgment that the Jews in Germany were losing a sensitivity that their ancestors had possessed. Having to put such an idea into law meant that what was always understood as proper behavior was being ignored.

Privacy in our day has almost disappeared. Even the most circumspect of us, willingly or not, share personal details with the government, retailers and random strangers. Many people choose to broadcast the most awful parts of their lives in popular entertainment and public forums.

Your friend was entirely in the wrong. The question is not whether you owe him an explanation, it is whether your  friendship can survive. He cannot forget what he saw although he was wrong to look. You may need to recognize that by talking about certain things on What’sApp or by text,  you also did not assign proper respect and confidentiality to your own life. Either of these facts may destroy the relationship. Both together probably will at the very least change your relationship.

If you both want it to survive, you will need to have a frank discussion of what values you see as belonging in a friendship. You may also want to read some of our previous Ask the Rabbi questions on friendships between men and women.

Wishing you privacy,

Rabbi Daniel and Susan Lapin

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