Connecting in Real Life
About the Guest
Is technology use fostering a sense of entitlement and discontent in our teens? Youth expert Dr. Kathy Koch explains that our youth expect choices, which actually means making a decision is harder because selecting one choice often eliminates another. This profoundly affects their spiritual decisions, as well as relational ones. Hear her tell how to reconnect with your teens.
Is technology use fostering a sense of entitlement and discontent in our teens? Youth expert Dr. Kathy Koch explains that our youth are wired to expect choices, so decision making is harder.
Connecting in Real Life
Bob: If you or your teenager is really tired today, maybe technology is to blame. Here’s Kathy Koch.
Kathy: This is the most sleep-deprived generation in the history of America. There’s research that says all of us, even adults, sleep better if, in the last hour, we’re not staring at a screen because they mess with the sleep patterns of the brain. I think children should not be sleeping with their cell phone. They need to get an alarm clock—they don’t need their phone in their room. No pads of any type / no rectangle—no glowing rectangle in the bedroom at night. I don’t think parents need it either.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, October 14th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We’re going to talk today about how to get control of the technology in your life instead of letting the technology in your life control you. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. All of this talk this week about technology, and about screens, and all of that has brought to mind a very moving scene from a movie I saw years ago. It’s actually a wedding scene in the movie.
Dennis: You’re wiping away a tear right now.
Bob: It’s choking me up a little bit because the movie is that tender love story. Some of our listeners may have seen Napoleon Dynamite when it came out a few years ago.
Dennis: Many of our listeners didn’t, Bob. They’re wondering: “What are you doing with your time?—
Dennis: —watching a movie called Napoleon Dynamite?!”
Bob: Napoleon Dynamite.
Dennis: I mean, Bob, I’ve never heard of it.
Bob: There’s the song—do you hear it?
[Always and Forever Song]
Bob: That’s Napoleon’s brother.
[Always and Forever Song]
Alright, we can turn that off now. Napoleon’s brother—
Dennis: It’s catchy. [Laughter] I can see why you watched it, Bob! [Laughter]
Bob: Such a good voice, too, don’t you think? Here he is—he’s at his wedding—
Dennis: Could we commemorate Bob? When he passes on, we have to do an autopsy of the brain. [Laughter] We just have to find out: “What was going on in there, really?”
Bob: “What caused that?”
Dennis: Were there two of them?!
Bob: “What caused that?” This was a wedding scene in the movie. Napoleon’s brother is getting married to somebody he met in a chat room. He sings those touching words to her: “I love technology, but not as much as you, you see; but I still love technology, always and forever.” I’ve actually sung that to my wife on occasion.
Dennis: Oh, yes; I bet you have! [Laughter]
And we have a guest, here on the broadcast, who is here to save us from this nonsense. [Laughter] Dr. Kathy Koch, welcome back to FamilyLife Today.
Kathy: I’m glad to be here—I think.
Dennis: “I think,”—yes! She’s written a book called Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World. That’s really what it’s all about—it is staying connected with them—I mean, all the way through the teen years. You cannot allow the bridge to get blown up by the teenager. You have to keep that bridge in place so you can be talking about great movies like Napoleon—
You know, as we look at this, one of the issues all of us, as parents, have got to deal with is—as we try to monitor what the screen involvement with our children looks like in our home, we first have to address our own screen involvement; don’t we?
Kathy: We do.
Bob: And if parents don’t go there first, they’re fighting a losing battle.
Kathy: They are. Kids tell me, all of the time, that they very much resent being told to turn things off and put things away while their parent has something in their hand, while they’re saying it.
A good friend of mine established a policy, when her kids became school-aged—that when they walked in the door from school, if she was on the phone, she said: “My kids are home. I’ll talk to you later,” and hung up. The children heard her immediately hang up. The first 30 minutes of them being home was their time—snack time / “How was your day?” you know, “What do you have to do tonight?” “What are your goals and your dreams?” They would just talk for 30 minutes, uninterrupted—no technology, no TV, nothing on.
That was the kids’ devoted “Mommy time.” Then, after the first 30 minutes, if the kids got engaged with homework or went outside to play, then the mom might call that person back; but for the first 30 minutes that they were home, those kids knew, “I am my mom’s son,” or “I am my mom’s daughter.” That’s so profound!
Dennis: And there are so many messages, though—that if a mom isn’t connecting like this / a dad, too, in terms of daily decompressing / finding out what’s going on: “What are the messages they’re hearing today?”
Sometimes, it can get boring listening to the stories; but every once in a while, they’ll fire a zinger like the night when my son threw himself across the foot of our bed at 11:00 pm at night. I was nearly comatose; and he said, “Well, Dad, I’m all set for my honeymoon night!”
Dennis: I said, “Excuse me?!” [Laughter] I woke up! We started a conversation—where he had been exposed to something that day in an educational setting that, frankly, I would call it sexual abuse.
Dennis: I would call it pornography—it shouldn’t have happened. But the messages being sent to kids today are: “They need to be happy at all costs.” It is a major message of the culture to both adults and children. Talk about how the Internet continues this brainwashing, going forward.
Kathy: I will do that, and then I want to come back to that 11:00 pm conversation.
Dennis: Well, start there then.
Kathy: Could I do that? Kids tell me, all the time—that they like talking in the dark because they can’t look at your eyes when they tell you something hard for you to hear.
I recommend that, when we put our kids to bed—or if they’re older and we haven’t put them to bed, but we know it is bedtime—that we stand in the doorway—we just stand there / pray or ponder. The kids might say, “What’s up, Dad?” “Oh, I’m just loving you from afar.”
I love that your son was available, and that you were available, and that he knew that he could come to you when he was ready because, sometimes, kids don’t talk to us because we go to them when we’re ready, and we don’t consider whether or not it’s the right time or the right environment. Maybe they’re stressed because there’s a test tomorrow—then don’t talk to them about something, you know, difficult in that moment.
Dennis: I want our listeners to know that I turned the light on when my son said that. [Laughter] It was like: “Hello!! We’re going to talk now.” And it was interesting—it was not only just a great moment—but it was a continued connecting point, which is what I know you believe in—it’s the message of your book, Screens and Teens.
You think parents have to fight their way through all of these messages to continue to connect with their kids. One of the messages, going back to my question, is: “You deserve complete happiness and fulfillment today.”
Bob: You’re saying that technology is convincing kids that they deserve total happiness?
Kathy: Absolutely. Sometimes, again, it’s a parenting pattern, where we’ve not been willing to be the parent—we let them have whatever they want. So, they also believe that we want them to be happy—that’s our laziness—let’s call it that. I actually do say to my audiences, “Let’s call sin, ‘sin’.”
Dennis: Well, sometimes, it’s not laziness, though. Sometimes, it means more work for us, like the mom who is a short-order cook for her family at breakfast and at dinner.
Kathy: Right, because the kids want to be happy all the time. Mom was going to make meatloaf. They see the ground beef on the counter and they say: “Oh, Mom, make me a burger!” “Oh, Mom, I want tacos.” “Mom, don’t you have leftover chicken from last night?” The mom ends up wanting the kids to be happy to the extent that she sacrifices, big time, rather than saying: “Hey, we’re having meatloaf.
“And if you don’t like it, you can go to bed hungry.”
Dennis: So what’s the warning about continuing to do that for kids? You’re just training them; right?
Kathy: Exactly, my friend. You’re just training them—they think that they can have what they want, when they want it, the way that they want it now. That’s not the way the world works.
Bob: Okay. I get it when it comes to meatloaf or tacos, but how does technology convince our kids that everything should make them happy?
Kathy: We can have anything we want now. I can go to a website and get one song for 99 cents and have it instantly. The restart concept, where nothing ever really breaks—you just reboot. I like that you can reboot, but you don’t reboot through life. There are real consequences of real sin choices. We have a generation of kids who may not know that.
Another one would be: “Everything is easy. You know, there’s spell-check, and there’s copy, and paste. There’s Siri on the phone, and there’s GPS.” I like all of that / I’m not opposed to any of it. It’s training our children, though, to expect the whole world to work like that because they’re connected to technology so often.
Bob: I have become used to—I was going to say “addicted,” but I think “used to” is a better term—I have become used to the idea that any information I want, at any point, is instantly available. And, honestly, it’s kind of fun—when you’re sitting at dinner and your wife says to you, “Do you remember that old song…?” I say, “Hang on!” and I can pull up the old song and I can play it. Or when you say, “Whatever happened to So-and-so?” You pull it out from the hip, and you’ve got it right there. What’s wrong with that?
Dennis: [Laughing] Be careful! We need to call Mary Ann at this point—his wife.
Kathy: His wife. As long as she doesn’t feel dismissed in the moment—I think there’s, maybe, nothing wrong with that. However, it does show us that information is all we need, and information is available. That scares me because wisdom is the higher value.
Dennis: And you make a point in your book that relationship—knowing people, interacting with people, going deep with people, having friendships that go through difficult times—that’s a part of real life they have to be trained in.
Kathy: Absolutely—very good point. And that might short-circuit—that quick use of instant technology.
It can be fun—with my nieces and nephew—we’ll be watching a movie. Someone will say, “Now, what other movie was that person in?” And we instantly get the answer. So, again, it’s not a horrible thing; but it teaches children that they can always have the answer. Well, guess what? There are some questions that aren’t that easy to answer.
Kathy: And they might stop asking those questions because they can’t handle the ambiguity and the non-answer.
Bob: Or they might move from a question like, “What other TV show was that actor in?” to a question like: “Why am I here? What is life really all about?” If you Google® that, you’re going to get a whole lot of different answers; and some of them aren’t so good; right?
Kathy: Great—great concept.
Dennis: And, to the young person, who grows up, thinking, “I deserve complete happiness,” it’s real easy for them to fall into this rut / habit—way of thinking—that, “I’m entitled to whatever I want, when I want it.” That feeds consumer debt, as a young person, where their credit card begins to satisfy their every want. It can be very dangerous. Comment on entitlement today, and what you see happening with teenagers.
Kathy: It really scares me because they’re dissatisfied with anything “old” if there’s something new that comes out. I used to have a flip-phone, and I didn’t need a smartphone. People were like, “Well, you know, they have better phones now.” “Oh, I know. I don’t need one.” “Yes, but there are better phones.” “Yes, but mine works.” “Yes, but there are better phones!” “But mine works.” It’s always about the new, and the better, and the bigger. I think it’s tragic, actually, that they wait in line in a tent at midnight for the store to open, as if, “What would happen if I don’t get the newest and the greatest?!”
The TV commercial in America is what trains children to understand that there’s more out there for them; right? And I’m not opposed to people buying something new if they need it or if they’ve saved for it. None of us are opposed to that, but it’s the culture that feeds the lie that they deserve it!
Dennis: There’s another, I guess, temptation or something else that the Internet really feeds in teenagers today—as far as that is concerned, in us, as adults—in that: “I’ve got to have a choice. I need some options here.” Comment on that.
Kathy: All the things that we play with are drop-down menu-driven; okay? So, TV, cable, DVR, email, cell phone, Excel spreadsheets, word processing, gaming, Wii™— drop-down menu.
Those of us, who are older, have a brain that was understanding that choice is a privilege. Young people are having their brain developed by the technology they’re using in their developmental years, so their brains are being wired to expect choice. If we don’t offer them a choice, they complain / they whine. If we offer them two—but they wanted a third—they argue.
I can’t tell you how many parents have said to me: “My kids argue way more than I ever thought they would, and I thought I was a good parent.” I’m the blessed person who gets to say: “No, you may be a very good parent. This is the lie of technology—training your kids to believe that choice is their right.”
Dennis: You know, I hadn’t thought about this until just now; but I wonder—Bob, we’ve talked about this on FamilyLife Today on numerous occasions—we have the oldest age of getting married today in our country than we’ve ever had in our history. It’s over the age of 29 for guys and 27 ½ for women.
Bob: And Napoleon Dynamite’s brother was, I think, in his early 30’s when—well, that probably doesn’t factor in here. [Laughter]
Dennis: That is really, really frightening—that you remember / that you remember that he was in his 30’s. [Laughter]
But the point is—that if we live in an age that is convincing and hard-wiring their brains to think, “I need choices,”—marriage is saying, “I choose you.”
Bob: Yes; right.
Kathy: Big choices are very hard for them to make because, once they’ve made them, it limits their choices. If I choose to marry this person, I can’t marry that person. Now, I have the first argument and I think, “Oh, I should have waited!”
This is another reason why pastors are telling me that—on a Sunday, a kid is sold out to Jesus: “I want to get baptized! It’s all about Jesus.” By next Sunday, they’ve changed their mind. I’ve actually had youth look at me and say, “Dr. Kathy, your Jesus made sense to me tonight, but there might be a better option tomorrow.” I had a young person, last summer, say to me: “Dr. Kathy, the Jesus that you proclaimed made sense to me tonight. I know that my youth pastor would love for me to humble myself and say, ‘Yes’; but I’m going to college in the fall. They might have someone different there to offer me.”
Dennis: Comment on how you came to faith and just share that question that you were asked that, ultimately, caused you to make a commitment to Jesus Christ. I think there might be a person, listening right now, who might be on the fence about this choice—which, by the way, is the most important choice you’ll ever make in your entire life. It’s where you will spend eternity because you’re basing your life upon: “Who is your Savior?” Is it you? Or is it Jesus Christ, who came to die for your sins?
Kathy: I would love to share that! I was raised in church by great people. I went to college and roomed with a girl of a different faith. I got a little bit confused. I thought church was the issue; but I started going to her church, and they did things very differently. I went back and talked to my youth pastor, who, praise God, was a believer. At every break, I had all kinds of questions.
In the summer, after my freshman year in college—when I was there, yet again, with more questions about why they did it this way and we do it this way and:
“Why does God allow these things to happen to these people?”—he opened the Word of God again and he said: “Kathy, you’re always going to have questions. That’s how God made your mind, but do you know enough to believe yet?” I felt so honored that he knew who I was and received who I was that he challenged me to say, “Do you know enough to believe yet?”
Faith in Christ only requires that you know that Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead. Everything else is understood later and solidifies our faith. Then we grow in our love and our contentment with Christ in our choice to be obedient, and to realize that God’s commands and God’s boundaries are healthy for us.
He showed me Colossians 2:3—that “…in Christ is hidden all wisdom and knowledge.” I came to faith in Christ for His wisdom. I come from a great family. I was deeply loved, and I wasn’t aware that I had a need for love; but I really wanted answers.
He showed me, in the holy Word of God, that the Holy Spirit would be a gift, and that He would be my teacher, and that the Scriptures would make more sense after I came to faith in Christ and not before—so I didn’t wait. That day—I tell young people that that day I turned off my head, and I turned on my heart. As an act of obedience, I said, “Yes,” to Christ. Then I turned my head back on and kept searching the Scriptures so I would know more about this God who chose to save me.
Dennis: I think that is a great observation. You didn’t turn your brain off—
Dennis: —to become a believer and a follower of Christ.
Bob: In fact, your youth pastor said to you, “You will understand more after you’re saved than you’re able to understand before you’re saved because you don’t have the Holy Spirit to guide you.”
Kathy: It’s faith.
Dennis: So, to that person who’s listening to us, right now—maybe you’re like Kathy—you need someone to ask you the same question. So, Kathy, ask the person the question, and then tell them what to do.
Kathy: Do you know enough to believe yet?
One of the reasons that is such an important question today is that we are inundated with information. There are videos, and websites, and sermons from this, that, and the other church. There’s so much that we’re exposed to that we can actually get more confused than ever before. Be in the holy Word of God, which is the Truth and the Way. Be in a Bible-teaching church and ask questions of what I call truth-talkers and wisdom-walkers, who have proven themselves to you to love you and to want the best for you.
Do you know enough to believe yet?
Dennis: So what are you going to do, as a listener? Answer the question: “Do you know enough to believe?” If you don’t, then open the Book—go to the Gospel of John, which is the fourth book in the New Testament—and start reading it. Read it through as many times as you can possibly read it in the next 30 days because it was a book that was give to you that you might believe that Jesus is the Messiah / He is the Savior—
—and that, believing, you might have eternal life.
Bob: I was going to point people to a link on our website; but I’m wondering if that’s okay to do, as we’re talking about screens?
Dennis: I think, after we’ve pointed them to the Bible. [Laughter] It is the most important decision you’ll ever make in your life. I would just challenge you: “If you’re just on the fence and you’re ready to step over, do it! Don’t wait! I mean, why would you want to wait to have a personal relationship with the Creator of the universe?”
Kathy: And the Creator of you!—because this book was written to us by our Creator. It’s a love letter and a life letter. It’s intimate, personal, and amazing. You’ll see things in it that He wants you to see when you’re ready to see them. That’s why reading it more than once can be so valuable.
We were created by God, in His image, for His glory. It says that in Isaiah 43, verse 7, which is a book in the Old Testament—we need to take that seriously. Although the Internet is full of resources, some of which are good—it is the Word of God. It’s not just a quick app on a phone and one verse a day that’s going to necessarily take us all the way to that decision to trust Christ—it’s the Book.
Bob: Okay, so here’s what we’ve got. We’ve got a link to the Gospel of John on our website. So, if somebody says, “I don’t even know where to find the Gospel of John,”—
Dennis: Way to go, Bob! Way to go!
Kathy: That’s great.
Bob: —we’ve got a link.
Dennis: You deliver—way to go!
Bob: It will take you—you can read through the Gospel of John, online. Then there’s a link to an article that’s called “Two Ways to Live” that outlines the one choice—the most important choice—that’s in front of everybody—that is: “Are you going to live in a way where you call the shots? Or are you going to live in a way where God’s calling the shots?” That’s really the question that’s at the core of all of this; right?
Dennis: And that encounter that you were just talking about changed Kathy Koch’s life. I just want to thank God for changing your life and giving you a great mind, and for Celebrating Children. Thank you for your ministry and your writing. I hope you’ll come back again and join us on FamilyLife Today.
Kathy: I would be honored to do that. Thank you.
Bob: Our website, again, is FamilyLifeToday.com. That’s where you will find the link that I talked about to the Gospel of John. It’s where you’ll find the article called “Two Ways to Live.” You can find Kathy Koch’s book, Screens and Teens, which we’ve got in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can order a copy of the book from us, online. Go to FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link that says, “GO DEEPER.” Look for information about the book and the links that we’ve talked about here. Again, the website is FamilyLifeToday.com. You can also order Kathy Koch’s book, Screens and Teens, when you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—that’s 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY,”—1-800-358-6329.
You know, what we’ve just been talking about—the need for spiritual transformation in a person’s life—that is foundational to everything we talk about, here at FamilyLife Today. Our conviction is that the most important relationship in your life must be your relationship with God, which is made possible only because of the work that Jesus Christ has done on our behalf. It’s from that foundation that strong marriages and strong families grow and thrive. That’s why, every day, here on FamilyLife Today, we offer biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family because we believe that it is that relationship with God, anchored in what He says to us in His Word, that is fundamental to everything that we do in marriage and family.
And we appreciate those of you who join with us in that mission of sharing practical biblical help and hope for your marriage and your family—those of you who support this ministry, either as monthly Legacy Partners or who will, occasionally, make a donation in support of FamilyLife Today. We are grateful every time we hear from a listener.
In fact, if you could help with a donation today, we’d like to express our thanks by sending you something new from Barbara Rainey. It’s a resource called “Untie Your Story,” designed to promote dinnertime conversation. These are napkin ties with questions on them that will spark some lively conversation around the dinner table. The “Untie Your Story” resource is our thank-you gift when you make a donation, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com. Click the link in the upper right-hand corner of the screen to make an online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make your donation over the phone. Or you can mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; and our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we are going to talk about a different kind of screen. We’re going to talk about the big screen / the movie screen because there’s a new movie coming out this weekend that we think you ought to be aware of. This may be a movie you want to take your teens to go see—it’s a movie called Woodlawn. We’ll talk with the producer and director of the movie, Jon Erwin, tomorrow. I hope you can be here for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
Song: Always and Forever
Movie: Napoleon Dynamite, ©2004 Twentieth Century Fox
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