I learned from my girls that a dear friend’s daughter is texting on Shabbat. This is the kind of news that would crush my friend, who is always bragging about her kids. I am hesitant to share this with her, but on the other hand I feel that she should know this information. What should I do?
There are several issues at play here. Let’s break this down.
The first is the issue of lashon hara (forbidden speech). Obviously, your daughters are telling you the truth, but we can’t act on anything unless we know information first hand, and not from our teenagers (or anyone else, of course). I personally think it’s a good thing that your girls shared this with you, as it shows that your relationship with them is solid and they feel they can trust you. Well done, Mom. As with anything, in a situation where there is a sheilah (halachic question) involved, you should consult your local rabbi.
When I presented this question to the local teenage girl who lives in my house, she brought up another good point. She said, “Mommy, the issue isn’t whether the mom knows or not, it’s that even if she knows, confronting the girl with the information won’t get her to stop.”
This is likely true. Those of us with teenagers know that no matter how awesome our own personal teenagers may be, they are still growing, testing, developing, and (let’s be honest) their brains do not function at full capacity at all times. This is normal. This girl may be caught up in her own rebellion, but is also caught up in a very serious issue that faces not only our community—texting on Shabbat is an element of “half-Shabbos,” a known phenomenon in the Modern Orthodox world—but society at large. Our kids (and maybe some of us) are so addicted to our phones, that putting them down for 25 hours can become an extreme burden. For a teenager, it can be nearly impossible.
My local teenager also reminded me that in order to disconnect from technology on Shabbat, this girl “needs to reconnect to Hashem,” something we can only a) model and b) daven for; that is, that our kids will stay on the right path.
Tirtza, you should probably stay out of it for now. Your friend likely knows that all is not peachy with her daughter. She probably isn’t sharing it with you because it is difficult and painful, especially if she is prone to bragging about her kids (something of which many of us are guilty). By all means, if she comes to you, be there with an open, non-judgmental ear. Keep an eye out for this girl and encourage your daughters to keep talking to you! And for you, my dear readers, I present the following PSA: Be on your phone less and listen to your kids more.
Best of luck, Rivkie