Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World
About the Guest
How is screen time affecting your kids? Youth expert Dr. Kathy Koch examines how technology is shaping the way our kids think. We're seeing some children interacting with screens more than their parents, says Dr. Koch, and some teens are even becoming addicted to the internet or video games. Dr. Koch encourages parents to monitor their children's technology use, and encourage more social interaction instead.
How is screen time affecting your kids? Youth expert Dr. Kathy Koch examines how technology is shaping the way our kids think. Dr. Koch encourages parents to monitor their children’s technology use.
Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World
Bob: If you’re a parent, you’re aware that there’s an age limit on Facebook®; right? A child is supposed to be 13 before he or she has his or her own Facebook page. Kathy Koch—she’s concerned that a lot of children under the age limit already have their own Facebook page.
Kathy: You know what really scares me is the parent will look at me and go, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.” That’s a huge deal because you just allowed yourself to say “Yes,” to the no-thing. I think parents go: “Oh, but they were complaining; and their brother was on it,” and “That’s the only way they can see their cousins’ pictures.” I’m like: “No! They can look over your shoulder when you’re opening your account. You allowed yourself to be manipulated by a whining, complaining 12-year-old? What are you going to do when she’s 16 and she wants a little bit of something?”
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Monday, October 12th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. If you have teens, and you have screens, then you probably need to pay attention to what we’re going to talk about today. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. You will probably have to do most of the work here because I’m going to be tweeting while we do this; okay? [Laughter]
Dennis: I was wondering if, in your review of the book that we’re covering today, Bob—and our author—if there’s been any twinge of conscience in your own life because of what we’re talking about.
Bob: I really think other people need to hear what she has to say.
Dennis: So, you’re continuing to be very good at pointing the log in other people’s—[Laughter]
Bob: You had to go there; didn’t you?
Dennis: I did; I did.
Well, we have with us a special guest—Dr. Kathy Koch joins us on FamilyLife Today.
Kathy is a delightful person, and we’re thrilled to have her on the broadcast. Welcome.
Kathy: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be here.
Dennis: She is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids. She speaks internationally and has spoken to more than 30 countries—to teachers, parents, and children. She’s an educator and also an author. She has written a book that Bob is embracing totally.
Bob: I’m holding it right here—I have her book in one hand / I have my smartphone in the other hand.
Dennis: It’s called Screens and Teens. I’ll say it again: Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World. This is really a giant deal for parents to consider today; isn’t it?
Kathy: It is. I’m glad you recognize that. If the parents don’t recognize it, and if they’re not willing to consider their role modeling, then our kids are in even more trouble.
Dennis: So you’re actually starting out with Bob—
Kathy: I was thinking of doing that. [Laughter]
Dennis: —the role modeling issue.
Bob: Well, you know, it’s interesting—because about five years ago, here at FamilyLife, we started talking about the classifications—Boomers, and Gen-X, and Millennials—and all of that. We said, “This group that’s coming up—this is the screen generation.” I mean, that’s the name we’ve used because, more than anything else, that identifies this group—their interaction with technology is shaping everything about them.
Kathy: Yes. That’s because it’s changing their brain. Our brains were finished when we began using technology—so it hasn’t had the same deep-rooted effect upon our character and our belief system.
Dennis: You’re talking about adults’ brains.
Kathy: Right; right. Your brain is finished when you’re 25. So, if you’re listening and you’re 25 or older, we’re finished.
Bob: It’s over. [Laughter]
Kathy: It’s as good as it gets. [Laughter]
Dennis: This is explaining a lot!
Kathy: Yes. And also relevant to that—if you’re above 33 or 34 years old, you’ve never known life without technology—but for this younger generation, change with technology is so fast. It is influencing their brain differently from ours.
Bob: Well, and from the very beginning, because how many three-year-olds today have a smartphone or a tablet in their lap?—and they’re learning to play games on that—not board games like I played—not Candy Land and Chutes and Ladders. They’re playing interactive games on screens.
Kathy: Interactive with the screen—not interactive with a parent.
Bob: And that’s a significant difference; isn’t it?
Kathy: It’s a huge difference.
Dennis: In fact, it’s causing addictions within young people today. You write in your book that four in ten young people fear they are addicted to the Internet. In fact, you have a quote—and I’m not going to tell our listeners how old this person is until I finish the quote. This girl says: “The Internet nearly always controls my actions. I have been told that I am addicted to the Internet and prefer its company rather than being with other people. I feel lost without the Internet.” That little girl was 12 years old.
How can you be addicted by the age of 12?
Kathy: Constant use and believing that it is your security / it is your everything—it is your window to the world. It is where you go when you’re anxious / it’s where you go when you’re feeling unknown because you don’t have people in your life to affirm you because they’re also using hand-held devices and surfing the Internet for their own purposes, quite possibly.
Bob: You know, as I read that, I thought to myself: “What if we came in to record these programs with Kathy, and Dennis said: ‘Now look. We’re going to be doing these programs here. Let’s just turn off our smartphones.’” Now, I’m not going to be using my smartphone while we’re doing these interviews—I don’t think very much—but if you told me to turn it off, I’d start to get a little anxious.
Bob: There’s something about the tethering / about the connectedness that I’m addicted to?
Dennis: Let me tell you what was happening to me as I was preparing for this broadcast.
I was reading your book, okay; [Laughter] and it was funny—I stopped my preparation—
Bob: —to check email.
Dennis: I did!
Bob: Yes; I knew that was coming.
Dennis: I did—I checked it. I also went online to do a little research as well, but it wasn’t on this subject; okay? [Laughter] It really is interesting—we’re not of the digital generation, but even we are impacted by this as well.
Kathy: Definitely. That need to multi-task / that need to avoid something which is boring—which, of course, was not my book—that’s not what I’m saying.
Dennis: Of course not. [Laughter]
Kathy: But what happened was—my book triggered an idea that made you think of something else that you wanted to go research. We go off on those little bunny trails; and hopefully, in our maturity, we come back.
Dennis: And it’s all within a fingertip—
Dennis: —I mean, the world, and Wikipedia®, and Google®. It’s amazing what’s available to us.
Bob: I don’t think of myself as being attention-deficit; but since technology has become more a part of my life, I’ve become more attention-deficit. I bounce from thing to thing more quickly and go: “What was I looking up here? Oh yes.” Why is that?
Kathy: You know, there’s evidence that suggests that some use of some technology awakens the ADD within a person’s brain or the ADHD. So, if when we were created, we had a tendency toward Attention Deficit Disorder, but it hadn’t been awakened yet because we were raised well and we had teachers, who were really able to keep us focused, but we start to video game / we start to multi-task—it can actually awaken those sections within the brain. Now, we become more like we have Attention Deficit Disorder—and we may not clinically have it—but we behave as if we do.
Dennis: I think this is a historic moment, here on FamilyLife Today. We’ve just diagnosed Bob. [Laughter] It has taken us 22 years to be able to figure this out. [Laughter]
Bob: No, you’ve had this diagnosis for awhile—I just haven’t been willing to own it. [Laughter]
Here’s the thing for parents—this is the world we live in.
We can’t pretend like it’s not—we can’t say, “Okay, the way I’m going to deal with this is remove all screens; and we’re going to go live in a cabin in the woods.” This is how you’re going to exist in the world in our day. So what do we need to know, as parents, and what do we need to be doing, as parents, so that we raise relationally-healthy sons and daughters in a screen world?
Kathy: We need to balance our lives. We need a little bit of tech and a little bit of outdoor nature. We need a little bit of tech and a little bit, “Let’s go fishing.” We need a little bit of tech research and a little bit of library research, which is so free in America. It’s not abandoning it all because a lot of it is very good—it’s how we use it, when we use it, why we use, how much of it we use; and how young are our children when we let them use it without our supervision. Those are the issues.
Dennis: I would add an additional answer to that question—that you write in your book: “As parents look at the use of technology, they need to understand”—
—this is really, I think, the big idea of your book—“that there are spiritual implications in the lives of your son or daughter for a lifetime, based upon how they begin this process of using technology, going forward.” Talk about the spiritual implications.
Kathy: Well, it’s so great. I’m so grateful that you saw that here. The first lie that I address, for instance, is the lie that “I am the center of my own universe,” which is so tragic because that’s a lie. God is the center of the universe. Do we know that, and do we behave as if He is; or do we forget that when we’re in our living rooms, if you will?
You know, when I was a child, if the phone rang, I had to answer it because I had no clue who was going to be there. Now, when my phone rings, I can look at it and go, “Oh, I’m not in the mood,” and choose to disengage. When I was a child, I had to buy the whole album, whether I wanted one song or all the songs. Today’s kids can hear a song, capture that one song, and feel good about it.
When I was a kid, you took a whole roll of film to the store, dropped it off, had it developed / a week later, picked up the pictures, paid for them all, whether they were good or not. Today’s kids can take a picture, auto-correct it, crop it, Photoshop® in somebody who they wish were there, and that becomes their proof of their existence that day. They can make the world be the way they want it to be—they think.
Dennis: And build it around themselves.
Kathy: Exactly. Their popularity on Facebook or Instagram—what they know, what they don’t know, they can make up things, they can talk about just the slice of their life that they want people to know and they can ignore the rest, which of course is very dangerous as well.
Bob: It’s not that technology is causing us to think we’re the center of the universe; we’re born thinking we’re the center of the universe. The issue is that technology enables it like never before; right?
Kathy: Oh, that’s such a great point; exactly. Parents, who are young themselves, who have bought the lie that they’re the center of their own universe—that’s really dangerous; right?—
—because now, you have young adults raising young children; and they all think they’re the center—so they can ignore the Bible, they can ignore God and church, they can ignore their neighbor. This is one of the reasons, by the way, that they’re lonely—because can you imagine 20 kids in a room and they all think they’re the center of the universe? Why would they talk to anyone?
Kathy: Only if those people will affirm that—
Bob: “Serve my needs in some way.”
Dennis: And then start thinking about those kids growing up—to start dating each other and then marrying one another—you know, two people, who think they’re both the center of the universe, in the most intimate of all relationships on the planet—marriage. That’s not going to work at all.
Kathy: You’re exactly right. I love what you’re both saying because it’s been an issue for centuries, certainly—the parenting culture—our parents over-emphasizing their children. For instance, if parents are on social media—and I’m not opposed to social media / I’m all over it myself—however, don’t post more pictures of your kids than you post of yourself. Do not make your profile picture on Facebook a picture of your child!
You are not your child! You are yourself. Does that make sense?
Kathy: Because that’s one of the ways that kids pick up, “Oh, not only am I the center of my universe, I’m actually the center of Mom’s universe.”
Dennis: Yes. I was going to say, “And don’t post a picture of your cat.” [Laughter]
Bob: Cats already think they’re the center of the universe—
Dennis: They do!
Bob: —and they don’t even have technology to back it up. It’s just so strong in them.
Dennis: I used to have a cat. I loved Snow White—she was a good friend.
Bob: Okay, so if technology enables this—I’m sorry I jumped all over Snow White there [Laughter]—but if technology enables and fuels this innate “I am the center of existence,” how do moms and dads combat that with their kids?
Kathy: We live out the one anothers in the family.
We teach the one anothers of the New Testament—that say things like, “Love one another,” “Honor one another,” “Pray for one another,” “Submit to one another,” “Do not judge one another.” There’s actually—one of the one anothers is, “Do not bite and devour one another.” I see us doing that to each other—trying to step on each other to get to a higher platform: “I want more friends than you have,” “I want my picture to get more likes than yours had faster than yours did.” Oh my goodness!
To “greet one another with a holy kiss”—that’s in the New Testament! We need to be greeting one another, but we’re not because we’re looking down at a handheld device and checking out our score or checking out the latest activity on some legitimate website. Again, I’m not against checking out a score for a basketball game on a website. However, we don’t do it if we’re going to diminish the people in the room while we’re doing it.
Bob: What you’re talking about here really goes back, long before interaction with technology, to a philosophy in the home that says, “Life is not going to revolve around you, but we are here to love and serve one another.”
We talk about whether it’s a child-centered home or whether it’s a God-centered home. You really have to make sure that your kids understand: “Here’s the way all of us interact with one another. It’s not about us. It’s about how we can love and serve each other.”
Dennis: Yes; in fact, all we have to do is go back to the words of Jesus when He was asked: “What’s the great commandment? What is it all about?”—I mean, “What’s life all about here?” Jesus said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This the great and first commandment, and the second is like it; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets [Matthew 22:35-40].” He wrapped up the Old Testament, basically, in these two commands.
What you’re talking about here is: “Don’t let your love of data—of the quest to find information, or games, or competition, whatever it is—steal from your child the privilege of beginning to learn that human beings / other children their age are made in the image of God. They have value, and that we need to respect one another and bring value to one another. I think that’s the lesson of your book here—is to teach our children where real life is found. First of all, vertically with God; but secondly, loving those He puts in our path along the way.”
Kathy: Amen and amen—I totally agree with that. Our children are trying to get their value from their connections through technology—how many friends they have / how many times they’re mentioned on social media for instance.
When God says, in His Holy Word, that we all have value—so for us to make sure our kids know: “Yes, you are important,” and “You are important to me,” “You’re important because God made you, and He didn’t have to,” and “You’re important because Jesus died for you, and He didn’t have to,” and “You’re important because the Holy Spirit comes in to reside within you.”
“You have great value, finished at the cross—additional value because you’re mine and God chose us as your parents,” and “We will take our responsibility seriously. It’s not that you’re more important than anyone else—everyone has value, and that’s how we expect you to behave,” and “If we see you diminishing others because you feel so puffed up, we will deal with that.”
Dennis: And as you say that, I think about the nature of social media today and technology. It gives teenagers access to numerous relationships—I mean, hundreds of them / potentially thousands of relationships. How do we teach our children the value of an individual human being when our children are now learning to tweet in bite-sized sentences to another human being, and that’s as deep as they ever go with another human being in relationship?
Kathy: And is it even a relationship; right?
Dennis: Yes, really.
Kathy: Yes. Is it a superficial number on a list? Children today collect people—people are their commodity. We might collect stuff, but we don’t treat people that way. I don’t have 5,000 friends on Facebook—I have 5,000 people who have chosen to affiliate with me on Facebook. We use the words carefully, and we use them well, and we define them well for our kiddos. I think we teach friendship skills.
We should realize that friendship is challenging today. It is challenging partly because we think we are the center of our own universe—so “Why do I need anyone?” And then we have all these connections that are superficial, and we don’t know how to be transparent. We don’t know how to be vulnerable, unless it’s for the shock value. We also don’t know how to be accountable.
Then I worry about: “Will we be transparent with God if we’ve never learned to be transparent, if you will, horizontally here—with moms and dads, and siblings, and grandparents—who we’re supposed to be able to trust with our heart, and our soul, and our head? So to teach friendship skills: “How do you discern who’s for you and who’s against you?”
Dennis: So at what age would you let a child begin to dabble in the Internet and in these matters?
Kathy: Well, 13’s the legal age for most of the social media things.
Bob: For Facebook / for Twitter—those kinds of things; right?
Kathy: Right. I wouldn’t do it below that. I’ve had parents go: “Oh, but they were complaining; and their brother was on it,” and “That’s the only way they can see their cousins’ pictures.” I’m like: “No! They can look over your shoulder when you’re opening your account.”
Dennis: They get those arguments out of child boot camp. They go to some boot camp, at some point during school—[Laughter]
Bob: They’re trained to complain.
Dennis: —and they get trained to complain and manipulate: “You’re the only parent in the world who didn’t allow me, as a 13-year-old or a 12-year-old, to go online.”
Kathy: Yes. But you know what really scares me is—the parent will look at me and go, “Oh, it’s not a big deal.”
That’s a huge deal because you just allowed yourself to say “Yes,” to the no-thing; and you allowed yourself to be manipulated by a whining, complaining 12-year-old. What are you going to do when she’s 16 and she wants a little bit of something? “Oh, that’ll be different.” No it won’t because you’ve just allowed your child to be the center of her own universe.
Dennis: Oh, it will be different—it’ll be much more painful, at that point—no doubt about it! [Laughter]
Kathy: That’s good.
Dennis: I think what we want to impress parents with here—and as far as that goes, grandparents as well—you are the adult. You must set a course for your home. If you don’t set a course for your home, I promise you—the world will and the world will influence your child to take over your home.
We haven’t really talked about—well, we talked a little bit about a child-centric home—but I think a lot of families really suffer from this—of giving their children too many privileges—letting them experience too many things of the world at a point when they don’t have the spiritual maturity, the emotional maturity, the relational maturity to handle issues.
I think what parents have to do is—we have to keep our boundaries clear. At the point you feel like you’re getting manipulated by your child, you need to take a step back and not let these little mud-wrestlers pull you into the mud puddle—and they’ll do it—I promise you. If they get you in the mud puddle, they’ll win because they’ll figure out a way to make you feel like you are the only parent in the world who has such standards.
Stand firm / stand strong. At the point you don’t know what to do, let me give you a profound piece of advice / it’s in the Bible—pray. Ask Almighty God, “Help us.” You know what I think? I’ve said this many times on FamilyLife Today: “God loves the prayer of a helpless parent.” I think He really does feel sorry for us, as parents: “You know what? I’m going to help you. I’m going to give you wisdom to know what to do.”
Bob: You know, I hope parents are hearing us say that how you deal with technology in your home is really a part of a bigger issue. That bigger issue is the values and the wisdom that you’re going to use as you raise your children, as you parent your children, as you shepherd them in the process of growing from childhood to adulthood. Technology’s just one factor in that, but it’s a significant factor in our culture today. This is an area where moms and dads do need to be on the same page, and they need to be consistent, and they need to really wrestle through, “What are the values we’re trying to instill in our home?”
I think, Kathy, your book helps a lot of parents with that. The book is called Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World. It’s a book we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can go, online, at FamilyLifeToday.com and click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You’ll find a copy of Kathy Koch’s book there. Again, it’s called Screens and Teens.
Go to FamilyLifeToday.com. Click where it says, “GO DEEPER”, in the upper left-hand corner of the screen. You can order a copy of the book from us, online; or if you’d prefer, you can call us and say, “I’d like the book, Screens and Teens.” Our number is 1-800-FL-TODAY—1-800-358-6329. That is 1-800-“F” as in family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.”
You know, our conviction, here at FamilyLife, is that we, as parents, have a significant responsibility—something that God has assigned to us—a stewardship. It’s our job to help our kids get from the foolishness of childhood to the wisdom of their adult years. In the process, to introduce them to the God who loves them / the God who sent His Son to die for them. We have a great responsibility to be engaged in the lives of our kids. At FamilyLife, we’re here to try to provide you with practical biblical help and hope in that assignment, day in and day out.
That’s a part of what FamilyLife Today is all about. We appreciate those of you who partner with us in this ministry, helping to make it possible through your donations and your support of FamilyLife Today.
In fact, if you’re able to help with a donation today, to help defray the cost of producing and syndicating this program, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a new resource from Barbara Rainey. It’s her very newest “Untie Your Story” resource. This is designed to promote conversation around the dinner table. These are napkin ties that have questions on them, and there’s a brand-new edition that has just come out from Barbara. We’ll send it to you, as a thank-you gift, when you make a donation today by going to FamilyLifeToday.com, clicking the upper right-hand corner of the screen, where it says, “I Care,” and making your online donation; or call 1-800-FL-TODAY to make your donation over the phone.
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Now, tomorrow, we want to talk about your kids’ devices and particularly at nighttime / after bedtime because there are a lot of teens, who are up texting, and tweeting, and on their phones at two in the morning. We’re going to talk about that tomorrow. Hope you can tune in.
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.
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