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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

This past Monday evening, Screening Our Future, a Bergen County initiative launched in September 2019 by six local elementary yeshiva heads of school, hosted its first community-wide technology-awareness event. Close to 1,000 people filled the auditorium at Yeshivat Frisch for a presentation of the acclaimed documentary “Screenagers,” followed by a dynamic talk by the distinguished Dr. David Pelcovitz, a well-known clinical psychologist.

Rabbi Saul Zucker, head of school at Ben Porat Yosef, welcomed guests, expressing a deep appreciation for the support and interest the community has exhibited toward this campaign. “This is not a local issue nor is it a Jewish issue; it is a human issue across the country,” said Rabbi Zucker. “As school leaders we have joined together, understanding that we cannot navigate these troubled waters alone. The scope is broad and the stakes are high.”

Screening Our Future was borne from a collaborative effort by the heads of school at Yavneh Academy, Yeshivat Noam, The Moriah School, Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, Yeshivat He’Atid and Ben Porat Yosef. It responds to the growing number of parents who expressed concerns related to technology and device usage among their children. Through a unified approach that includes new guidelines and practices, this initiative aims to reset the way the community’s children approach technology. Monday evening’s turnout was an obvious confirmation that the community is engaged and united in achieving the same results. “Together we can be successful because there is strength in numbers, strength in knowledge and strength in unity,” said Rabbi Zucker.

“Screenagers,” created and directed by Delaney Ruston, a physician and film director, focuses on concerns and questions that arise from too much screen time. It offers viewers research-backed data that proves how harmful technology overuse can be, especially on young, developing brains. It also provides takeaway tips and suggestions that parents can use to create a safer digital environment once their children have internet access.

Following the documentary, guests were privileged to hear from David Pelcovitz, an expert in family psychology who has lectured on this topic throughout the world. He said that a common misconception within communities like ours is the idea that our children are immune to certain dangers that internet access presents, he explained. And while he agrees that technology can be a tremendous resource in many ways, he maintains that proper balance is the key to using it in a safe and successful way.

After sharing some personal anecdotes and insights, perhaps the most critical message Dr. Pelcovitz aimed to impart was the necessity for open and honest conversation, and making sure your children know that as parents you are always there for them and love them unconditionally. This understanding will empower children to act accordingly and have the confidence and security to turn to you should a problem arise.

The evening concluded with words from Rabbi Daniel Price, head of school at the Rosenbaum Yeshiva of North Jersey, who thanked the audience for their participation and encouraged them to keep the conversation going. He also announced that upcoming projects will be introduced including a Chanukah initiative encouraging families to unite together upon lighting Chanukah candles and go screen free while the candles remain lit. For more information, please email [email protected].

By Andrea Nissel