Before you speak, you are the master of your words. After you speak, your words become your master.

– Orchot Tzaddikim, 21 (Prague, 16th Century)

Social Media is on 24/7. In some ways, teens are more in communication with peers than ever before. In other ways, they are having a more difficult time with in person interactions. The constant posting of pictures and comments presents new challenges to educators and parents as well as to teens. This session looks at the forms of communication and how those forms change the way we determine what is right or wrong.


This is a simple communication game adapted from the “Ultimate Camp Resource” website.

Within a group, two people claim that they can read minds. One person will leave the group to a place where they cannot see or hear the group. In their absence, the group will select an object in the room for the person to psychically identify. (This object can be absolute anything)

The group will call for the person to return and the other person that knows of the trick, will begin questioning the counselor as to what the object is.
Counselor 1:”is it the lamp?”
Counselor 2:”no”
Counselor 1:”is it Jesse’s purple shirt?”
Counselor 2:”nope”
Counselor 1:”is it that black shoe?”
Counselor 2:”no”
Counselor 1:”is it Michael’s zit?”
Counselor 2:”YES”

The second counselor knew it was Michael’s zit because it came AFTER a black item. Hence “Black Magic”

You can do this as dramatically as you want to. example: Pretend to read the other person’s mind before you begin.


Why Does the Way That We Communicate Matter?

(This activity requires a large pad of post-it paper)

Have two participants volunteer to have a conversation in front of the rest of the group.

Place two large post-it notes on a wall. Hand the two participants magic markers and tell them that their conversation will happen only via text and that they should not look at each other at all. Ask one of the participants to start the conversation with the words “What did you do last weekend?”

Have them go back and forth until they have filled the entire paper.

Next ask two more volunteers to have a conversation. Hand them the markers as if they are going to do the same activity, but this time, tell them that the conversation will happen without writing. Have one start with the question “What did you do last weekend?”


  • What did you notice about the text communication?
  • When did participants pause?
  • When did they use shorthand or slang?
  • What changed when they switched to language?
  • What impact did eye contact have on the conversation?

Here are some trigger videos to help further the idea that our experiences with communication change depending on the medium:

Dramatic Videos:

Comedy Videos:

Post video debrief:

  • What are the fears that people have with online communication?
  • What expectations are in the “texting” video?
  • What does “creeping” mean in the Facebook video?

Do: Where Do You Stand? Stances on Social Media

I am connected to social media (facebook, instagram, twitter, gchat, etc.) whenever possible.

The whole point of social media is to be funny.

Social media increases the quality of my relationships with friends.

Social media increases the quality of my relationships with family.

It’s easier to say something to someone on-line than in person.

Your parents should have access to your social media.

There is nothing wrong with having your parents in your social media network.

I care if people “like” my photos or posts

The more “friends” or “followers” I have on social media sites, the better.

I would give up all of my social media if it meant keeping my best friends.

Most guys use social media to make themselves look cooler than they really are.

The image I present on social media is the “real me”.

I have complete control over what I post on line (tweets, videos, pictures, texts)

I have had a negative experience with social media (ex. negative comments, forwarding without your permission, or misunderstandings)

I have sent a message intended for one person to someone else by mistake.

Social media can really help when someone is depressed.

Social media can really help when someone is sick.

I have regretted something I posted on-line.

I have gotten involved or more involved in a cause I believe in through social media.

I am concerned that I won’t get a job or into a college of my choice as a result of my social media content.

Social media creates jealousy.

I have gotten mad at someone as a result of something he/she posted on-line.

Everything I post via social media is public, permanent and traceable.

If time allows, invite guys to create statements of their own about social media that they’d like to see “where people stand” and proceed with guys standing their response.

An excellent resource on texting created by MTV is available at

Explore: The Medium is the Message

Process the “where do you stand” activity – highlighting themes, similarities and differences within the group.

Have them label all forms of socially driven digital communication. Have them describe each form. i.e. Vine – short videos.

Hang this list up.

Ask the group to share examples of positive outcomes of social media. You may choose to create a list, perhaps pulling out key phrases or themes that you hear from the guys’ examples.

Ask the group to share examples of negative outcomes of social media. Encourage specific examples (without using names or identifying information). An easy way to help your guys to do this is to have them fill-in-the-blank for:

On Instagram, I hate it when people ________________. (or a similar phrase.)

You may choose to create a list, perhaps pulling out key phrases or themes that you hear from the guys’ examples.

If these topics don’t come up organically ask,

  • “How might what you text or write on a social media site be interpreted by someone other than your friends?”
  • “Are there times when you feel pressure to respond to social media? How does this happen? How does it feel?”
  • “How do you feel when you read others’ comments on your posts?”
  • “What is an example of ‘drama’ on social media sites with your peers? How is the drama escalated? How is it different from drama off-line?”
  • “What happens when what you say on a social media site is taken out of context?”


Share the following fact with your guys:

88 percent of students surveyed have witnessed peers being mean or cruel online.
(Pew Research Center, 2010)

Have the guys participate in an agree/disagree exercise with the statements below.

Facilitator’s Tip:

You can have the guys move around the room or simply run it as a “raise your hand high if you agree and mid-height if you kind of agree and keep it down if you disagree.”

Bullying Statements:

In school we have talked about online bullying.

The talks we had in school helped stop people from bullying each other online.

I’ve showed a parent something online because I felt that someone was getting bullied.

One of my friends has been bullied.

There is a difference from bullying in person and bullying online.

Ask everyone to read the following Jewish text:

Some of the rabbis of the Talmud taught: A person who listens to hateful speech about another person is even worse than the person who tells it, because no harm could be done by gossip if no one listened to it. It has been said that lashon ha-ra (hateful speech) destroys three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told.

Talmud, Arachin 15b

Do you agree that listening to hateful speech is worse than hateful speech itself? Why or why not?

Scenarios for  Role Play

Example 1:

A guy you know posts a picture of himself with his arm around a guy. Someone you don’t know that well posts a comment “#Fags” Do you say anything?

Example 2:

Someone accidently forwards a text that says “everyone can come out for pizza but I really don’t want so-and-so to come” to the person who is not being included. That person says FU to everyone and says that anyone who goes out for pizza is a “Dick” Do you respond?

When Humor Goes to Far:

Ask the guys to pair up and to think of one of the following two experiences:

  1. A time when other people thought something was funny and you didn’t think it was funny.
  2. A time when you thought something was funny and other people were offended.

Have each guy share their experience with their partner.

Calling People Out

Ask the guys to think about a time when someone or a group of people “went too far” with what they were doing on social media.

Ask: When someone does go too far and hurts someone’s feelings, what do you do about it?

Ask each guy to think about which one of these options that they would probably do:

  1. Make a joke about it.
  2. Ignore it.
  3. Tell people that it is not funny anymore.

Have the guys reflect on this Jewish text:

If the humiliation took place in the presence of others, make your apology in their presence, as well as in private. Otherwise the victim has the right to say, “You shamed me in front of others, and now you want to apologize in private. Bring me all the people who heard you embarrass me, and then I will accept your apology.

Yalkout Shimoni, Hosea 14


What is flirting and what is sexting?

What are the reasons why people flirt?

Explain: Jewish teachings prohibit any romantic or sexual relations if one of the two people is not a willing partner. For centuries, advice was given to teenagers in the form of letters written secretly from parents to children. The following teaching is an example of this kind of advice.

You should begin with words that will draw the heart of the other person to you, that will settle the mind and make the person happy….words and actions that will produce desire, attachment, love, willingness, and passion…

Igeret Ha-Kodesh, 14th Century

The goal of the advice was to make sure that the person knew how to say things that were positive and loving – before taking any physical actions.


What words or phrases are acceptable to use in text message flirting and what words are not?

First have them gauge the following messages.

  • Hey you. ;)
  • Serious issue: Can’t stop thinking about you.
  • You looked good today.
  • I think you’re hot.
  • Will you come over and give me a back rub?
  • Would you take a shower with me?
  • I’m horny today.

Now ask: Have you seen or heard about messages that are even more explicit?

In flirting with text messages, when do you feel uncomfortable? When do you say “that’s not funny”?

Explain: Any text that you send or reaction you have to a text that you read can be shared with other. A 16th century Jewish ethical teacher from Prague once said:

Before you speak, you are the master of your words. After you speak, your words
become your master.

Orchot Tzaddikim, ch. 21

Rabbi Yossi taught:

I never made a statement for which I would have to turn around and check whether the person about whom I was speaking was present.

Have guys volunteer to act one line from a card (see below for the content of the cards.) Have each guy look at their line and memorize it. Before they say it, have them close their eyes. Ask each guy to open their eyes and say the phrase like they mean it.

  • That’s not funny.
  • That’s not cool.
  • You can do better than that.
  • I thought that you were a bit more mature.
  • That’s stupid.
  • I don’t like this conversation anymore.

Ask the guys – whose line was the most convincing? What is the best line? What line conveys the most anger? Are all of these lines acceptable?

Ask for them to create a few more lines – other good ways of saying “you are making me uncomfortable.”

Explain: Sometimes we need to block out or ignore what makes us uncomfortable. The rabbis of the Talmud taught: Why do human fingers resemble pegs? So that if one hears something improper, one can plug one’s fingers in one’s ears. (Ketubot 5b)

What images are appropriate to share on social media?


Age 12 Age 14 Age 16 Age 18 Age 21 Never
Photo wearing only underwear
Photo in shower with hands covering private parts
Photo of naked tush but not face
Photo of penis but no face
Nude photo
Video of masturbation without face
Video of masturbation with face
Video of oral sex without face
Video of oral sex with face
Full on sex tape


Explain: Each of us come from different families and we have each been taught different attitudes about what is and what isn’t appropriate. In life, you’ll meet people who think that everything is appropriate and people who think that nothing is appropriate. Some people just say what they think others want to hear, other people have serious feelings about sexuality and reasons behind those feelings. In the Jewish ethical work Zot Zihron, we are taught:

You should receive every person with warmth, understand the suffering that the person has undergone, and treat the person with gentleness… it is part of human kindness to listen to others talk, even if they overdo it.

Zot Zihron, p. 3


End the session with some positive face-to-face communication. Have the group come up with two phrases, one to extend to someone and one to respond. Have each person interact with everyone in the group in this way.

Follow with a “Shalom Aleichem” / “Aleichem Shalom” in this way.