Television, DVDs and Computer Games

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After seeing this post in September, I sent in the following question to the Kollel Eretz Hemdah Ask the Rabbi function:

Does Halacha forbid a child from playing computer games and watching DVDs? I saw an online source arguing that such activity is forbidden on many levels and causes children to leave the fold of Orthodoxy. If there are other views, it would be valuable to have them available online also.

I received an answer in Modern Hebrew via e-mail last week. Below is my attempt at a translation followed by the Hebrew:
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The general rule to be applied here is “Don’t look at the container but what it is in it.”

The television/DVD/computer are tools that record and use different programs. The fundamental test has to be an evaluation of the content.

If there are, or are likely to be, in these computer games or movies immodest pictures that one is forbidden to watch, it is clear that this matter is forbidden not just for children but also for adults.

In addition to the rules of modesty, there are likely to be additional content problems due to which it is best not to watch these things — such as verbal and physical violence, mockery (comedy films that are sometimes built upon exploiting the weakness of a person or image, outright damaging him, or the like), materialism, and exposure to startling emotional situations that are difficult to grapple with, such as fear, anger and stress.

These problems, as well, are relevant to adults, albeit sometimes at lower levels of influence and creation of conflicts.

One should also be careful about addiction to this tool and the spiritual relation to it regarding its importance in the daily routine of a person and a child.

Let us conclude and say that, as with any instrument, one should use it with wisdom in order to enrich the worlds of children and not to damage them, God forbid.

הכלל המנחה שראוי לנקוט בענין זה הוא: “אל תסתכל בקנקן אלא במה שיש בו”.

הטלויזיה / DVD / המחשב הם כלים שדרכם קולטים ועוסקים בתכנים שונים ומגוונים. המבחן העיקרי צריך להיות מבחן התוכן.

אם ישנם או עלולים להיות במשחקי מחשב או סרטים אלו תמונות לא צנועות שאסור לצפות בהם, ברור שהדבר אסור ולא רק לילדים אלא גם למבוגרים.

מלבד איסורי צניעות עלולות להיות בעיות תוכן נוספות שמחמתן יש להמנע מלצפות בדברים אלו כמו אלימות בגוף ואלימות מילולית, ליצנות (סרטי הומור שבנויים פעמים רבות על ניצול חולשתו של אדם או דמות או פגיעה ישירה בו וכדומה), חומרנות, חשיפה למצבים רגשיים בעיתיים שקשה להתמודד עמם כמו אימה ופחד, כעס, מתח.

גם הבעיות הללו שייכות אצל מבוגרים אלא שלפעמים בעוצמת השפעה ויצירת קונפליקטים נמוכה יותר.

יש להזהר גם מההתמכרות לכלי זה והיחס הנפשי אליו בעניין חשיבות מקומו בסדר יומו של האדם והילד.

נסכם ונאמר כי כמו בכל מכשיר יש להשתמש בו בחכמה, כדי להעשיר את עולמם של הילדים ולא לפגוע בהם ח”ו.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the Editor of, a leading website on Orthodox Jewish scholarly subjects, and the Book Editor of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Action magazine. He writes a popular column on issues of Jewish law and thought featured in newspapers and magazines, including The Jewish Link, The Jewish Echo and The Vues. In the past, he has served as the President of the small Jewish publisher Yashar Books and as the Managing Editor of OU Press. Rabbi Student currently is serving his third term on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America and also serves as the Director of the Halacha Commission of the Rabbinical Alliance of America. He serves on the Editorial Board of Jewish Action magazineand the Board of OU Press. He has published four English books, the most recent titled Search Engine volume 2: Finding Meaning in Jewish Texts -- Jewish Leadership, and served as the American editor for Morasha Kehillat Yaakov: Essays in Honour of Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks.

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