There is a new malady amongst our "frum" teenagers. It's known as Half Shabbos. This is loosely defined as when otherwise Shomer Shabbos teens text on Shabbos. This phenomenon, unfortunately, has probably been around amongst our kids for the last few years. However, it first made it to the blogosphere in September-November with a number of posts by Alan Brill here, and here, and here. Recently, it has gone mainstream with an article in the Anglo-Jewish press entitled: New ways of wishing 'gd Shbs'.
The reasons for this sickness are many.
- Kids are addicted to their cell phones. (Many grownups are too but that's another discussion.) They text hundreds of times daily as their normal form of communication. They feel that they cannot be deprived from this basic form of communication on Shabbos.
- Kids, who are naturally insecure at this age, feel like they will be "left out" unless they use their cell phones. Imagine the frum kid who puts his cell phone away all Shabbos. When he turns it back on after the conclusion of Shabbos he has a dozen text messages from friends on Shabbos discussing where they got together to hang out on Shabbos afternoon. This kid feels like he missed out on something because he did not use his cell phone.
- Kids do not experience the beauty of Shabbos so they don't see the "big deal" about using their cell phones.
So what can we do about it? I really don't know. The Rav already wondered that while one can educate students about a concept or idea, how can a teacher communicate an emotion? How can one communicate the beauty of Shabbos while sitting in class on a Tuesday morning? I am open to any ideas readers can provide.
One thing that has resonated with me at least when discussing the issue of texting on Shabbos is the need to take a virtual break from cell phones, computers, and other technologies which Shabbos already provides. In our fast paced hi-tech world, there is no more down time. Just today, a New York Times article bemoaned the shrinking divide between work and home that our new age of being constantly "on" has created. I cannot begin to describe the euphoria I feel turning off my cell phone and putting it away on Friday before candle lighting knowing that for the next 25 hours I will be focused only on two things, my family and Torah. I have blogged about this in the past. There have been movements even amongst teens in the secular world to take breaks from texting so they could rediscover their voice. Maybe this would connect with our kids. I don't know. Is it worth a try?