FamilyLife Today® Podcast

Technology and Our Core Needs

with Kathy Koch | October 13, 2015
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Our kids are getting more than just information when they turn on their computer screens. Dr. Kathy Koch, author of "Screens and Teens" talks about the five emotional needs of teens-security, for example-and explains how technology is affecting and fulfilling those needs.

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  • About the Host

  • About the Guest

  • Our kids are getting more than just information when they turn on their computer screens. Dr. Kathy Koch, author of "Screens and Teens" talks about the five emotional needs of teens-security, for example-and explains how technology is affecting and fulfilling those needs.

  • Dave and Ann Wilson

    Dave and Ann Wilson are hosts of FamilyLife Today®, FamilyLife’s nationally-syndicated radio program. Dave and Ann have been married for more than 38 years and have spent the last 33 teaching and mentoring couples and parents across the country. They have been featured speakers at FamilyLife’s Weekend to Remember® marriage getaway since 1993 and have also hosted their own marriage conferences across the country. Cofounders of Kensington Church—a national, multicampus church that hosts more than 14,000 visitors every weekend—the Wilsons are the creative force behind DVD teaching series Rock Your Marriage and The Survival Guide To Parenting, as well as authors of the recently released book Vertical Marriage (Zondervan, 2019). Dave is a graduate of the International School of Theology, where he received a Master of Divinity degree. A Ball State University Hall of Fame quarterback, Dave served the Detroit Lions as chaplain for 33 years. Ann attended the University of Kentucky. She has been active alongside Dave in ministry as a speaker, writer, small-group leader, and mentor to countless wives of professional athletes. The Wilsons live in the Detroit area. They have three grown sons, CJ, Austin, and Cody, three daughters-in-law, and a growing number of grandchildren.

Dr. Kathy Koch, author of “Screens and Teens” talks about the emotional needs of teens, and explains how technology is affecting and fulfilling those needs.

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Technology and Our Core Needs

With Kathy Koch
October 13, 2015
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Bob: Author and speaker, Kathy Koch, has some pretty strong words for parents of teenagers, especially if your kids have cell phones.

Kathy: They should not be sleeping with their cell phone. They need to get an alarm clock—they don’t need their phone in their room. It needs to be on a charging station that mom and dad control. No pads of any type / no rectangle—no glowing rectangle in the bedroom at night.

I don’t think parents need it either—that’s where there’s hypocrisy, potentially. Again, I understand parents are different; but we’ve got to be really careful in how we present that to our kids so that we don’t give them an excuse to debate with us about that.

Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, October 13th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. If you have a teenager listening with you, and he or she has not yet turned off the radio because they don’t want you to hear what we have to talk about today, keep listening. We have a lot to talk about—teens and tech straight ahead.



And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I’m a little conflicted here in what we’re talking about.

Dennis: That’s not surprising. [Laughter]

Bob: When we look at the reality of how our world is shaped by technology today, we have to acknowledge we are reaping some huge benefits from the technology that connects us. I’m here to say, “It’s a good thing, and I like it!”

Dennis: It is a good thing when it’s used right. It can be a challenging thing when our teenagers—

Bob: —get their hands on it.

Dennis: ——and our young people get their hands on it. Dr. Kathy Koch is joining us again on FamilyLife Today to help equip parents to better know how to—well, guide their children and help raise them to adulthood without getting too deeply wounded by technology. Welcome back, Kathy.

Kathy: I’m so glad to be here. Thank you.



Dennis: She has written a book called Screens and Teens.

Bob: See, it’s not for me because I’m not a teen anymore. So I can handle it. Let’s just talk about the kids and how we deal with them; okay?

Dennis: Kids are connected to parents though, Bob. You may be, for the most part, done as a parent; but there are a lot of listeners who aren’t done yet. Kathy’s book is subtitled: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World. She is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids and lives in Fort Worth, Texas.

Tell our listeners a little bit about Celebrate Kids. What does that ministry do?

Kathy: We are passionate to help parents raise the children they were given and not the children they wish they had.

Dennis and Bob: [Laughing]

Kathy: It makes a difference.

Dennis: There were days when we thought about trading them in—no doubt about it.

Kathy: We’re passionate to help parents and teachers know their children and raise them up to be ambassadors for Christ and to glorify Him through who they become and what they do.


We do teacher programs, and parent programs, and work with kids of all ages in school, and church, and convention programs.

Bob: You’re not a Luddite?—you have a smartphone; don’t you?

Kathy: Yes, I do.

Bob: You have Internet access at home; right?

Dennis: What did you just call her?

Bob: A Luddite—are you familiar? Luddites are people who want typewriters in their home—they don’t want any technological change whatsoever. I mean, they want typewriters instead of computers, not in addition to computers.

Dennis: There you go.

Bob: They want to function in the ways of the old world, and they don’t want any progress. You’re not one of those people.

Kathy: Absolutely not—I’m all about technology. I’m very grateful for the auto-correct key on my word-processing program. I’m very grateful for that, if I get home and my Internet’s gone out, I can unplug it, wait 20 seconds, plug it back in, and it magically fixes itself—I’m amazed. I think pausing live TV is miraculous—and I like it! I’m not opposed to any of it.

What I’m concerned about is the character qualities that I’m seeing in our young people and the things I’m seeing them believe that has been caused by the amount of technology they are using.



Bob: You talk about some of the core spiritual and emotional needs that all of us have, growing up, and how technology is influencing that with children. Explain what you mean.

Kathy: I’d love to. Security is the first core need we have. It should be met through people who are trustworthy—certainly God—and then trustworthy people that we surround ourselves with. Unfortunately, this tech-generation is having their security met by the speed of the Internet or by the score on the game that they played last night. They’ve bought the lie that security is in their performance, related to the technology that they are using.

Identity: “Who am I?” Well, they’re not connecting with their parents as well as we were connected. They’re not listening to their parents telling them they are bright, and creative, and beautiful, and outgoing, and generous, and kind, and thoughtful. Instead, they may be listening to somebody on Twitter that said that their generation was lost; and they believe that.


Dennis: That’s where a parent—I just want moms and dads to listen up, at this point—help your child understand what it means to be uniquely a boy and not a girl / and what it means to be a girl and not a boy because, if they’re not getting those signals from you, that means they are wide open to get the signals from Facebook®, which is going to give them this list of 60 bizarre / I mean, really bizarre choices of different sexual identities that they can begin to self-identify, along with their peers. The peers are going to win if the parents don’t provide the plumb line.

Kathy: Can I camp there for just a second?

Dennis: Sure.

Kathy: One of the things that is true of those of us, who are older, is we have beliefs that cause relationships. We knew when we were being raised / we still know our beliefs, and our beliefs drive our relationships. So the people whom we hang with, people whom we hire, the people whom we interact with and network with are going to be like-minded people. It doesn’t mean that I don’t have friends outside of my faith; but it does mean the people whom I connect with, at a deep level, and the people whom I hire are going to be believers.


This younger generation has what we call “relationship-based beliefs”—they relate and, therefore, they believe. That’s because relationships have become so important to them because it’s collecting the number of people they have in their sphere of influence. If you want to influence your children’s belief systems, we have to be considered, by them, to have a relationship with them, which means moms and dads have got to stay connected.

Bob: What you’re saying is: “When it comes to security and identity—two of the needs you’ve talked about—mom and dad should be more important in influencing a child’s sense of being safe and the child’s sense of who he or she is—more important than technology is.” There’s a concern today that mom and dad are less important than ever and that technology has taken over.

Kathy: Exactly. That’s why the subtitle of the book is: Connecting with Our Kids. How do we have those kinds of conversations?


How do we keep the relationship healthy, even when there’s a storm within the home?— which is going to happen, even in great families.

Bob: You talk about issues like belonging or purpose: “What am I good at?” “What am I here for?” “…competence.”

Kathy: Right.

Bob: These are the kinds of things that, again, a child is either going to find out answers to these issues from what mom, and dad, and the home provide; or they’re going to get it from some other place. Now, technology has breached the wall as it were—it’s come over the walls of the embassy and said, “Here, we’re here with solutions to everything you’re facing.” Teens are going, “I like your answers.”

Kathy: Very good point. And it’s not, again, that we’re opposed to technology. I want the family to have belonging met in the family unit; and I want healthy technological relationships, if you will. It’s okay to follow bands on You Tube®. It’s okay to know of a speaker at a church in another country that you want to watch on the Internet because his sermons are great.


Those are great belonging connections that can enhance our identity, and our security, and even our purpose and our competence—we’re not opposed to it; but it‘s in addition to the family being first, not instead of the family.

Dennis: When I taught my sixth-grade Sunday school class, I just pounded this verse with these preteens—it’s 1 Corinthians, Chapter 15—I believe it’s verse 33: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” I think what parents just need to understand is: “Your child is a click away from bad company—and not just bad company—but evil company / tremendous forces to take your child away from your family. If you don’t take the high ground with your child / if you’re not proactively teaching your child the Bible, and how to view life, and how to be wise and not be a fool, then they’re going to be susceptible to the fools who are out there, on the Internet—they are out there, trust me.


Bob: The bad company has lined the Internet highways. As your child navigates, the bad company is holding up signs, saying, “Hey come check us out!”

Dennis: “Over here! Over here!”

Bob: Unless you’re cultivating character in a child and unless you’re helping to shepherd that path along the Internet highway, that child’s going to be pulled aside.

Dennis: And help them understand the difference between a fool and a wise person.

Kathy: Exactly because, if we’re open to them coming to us, then we are the wisdom; and we model for them discernment. That will prevent them—hopefully / at least, in part—from gravitating toward the fools that are trolling out there for them.

Dennis: I keep thinking about this passage—so I’m going to mention it because this really kind of captures the Internet. It’s a Proverb that says, “A man of many friends comes to ruin [Proverbs 18:24].” What can happen on the Internet is—you can have a lot of surface relationships with people that you can’t possibly know what their worldview is and how they’re coming at life.


Teenagers—they just don’t have the emotional/the spiritual maturity or the discernment to know how to choose who they really do go deep with, in life.

Kathy: That’s so true. Unfortunately, another reality about the Internet and technology, in general, is that they may not want to go deep with anyone. They might be very satisfied with themselves—they can be their own authority / they’re satisfied with information—they don’t crave wisdom. Many of them, unfortunately, have learned to treat people superficially because of texting and social media. Even young children, who aren’t on social media, pick up clues from us in how quickly we disengage in conversation.

One of my biggest concerns—and one of my biggest motivations for writing the book is—I don’t want to treat God like that. I’m very concerned that they begin typing a status update for God, and then go, “Oh, He won’t like that,”—delete, delete, delete, delete, delete.


Dennis: So speak to the parent, Kathy, who is listening to us right now. That mom / that dad is thinking: “I don’t know. I wonder, ‘Could it be that my child has an addiction to the Internet / to social media?’” What are the signs that would give warning to a parent if they are seeing them occur in their children?

Bob: You’re really doing this for parents, not for me; right? You didn’t ask the question——

Dennis: I was not asking for you Bob, but we could—

Bob: If the shoe fits? [Laughter]

Kathy: Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit, not from Dennis Rainey; right?

Dennis: Thank you. Thank you. We’ve had a couple of profound moments here—there’s no doubt about it.

Kathy: I may never be invited back, but we’ll see. [Laughter]

If the first thing you do in the morning is check your Facebook feed, you’re addicted. You’re not that important to think that something happened in eight hours that you have to check up on. You know: “What did my friends do?


“What post did I not get to ‘like’ because I was sleeping?” and “If I don’t like them, they’re going to think that I wasn’t engaged; and how horrible that will be.” Adults have to be really careful of that. I’m not saying that we don’t necessarily wake up and need to check email—there are / some of us have corporate executive things or family connections and there’s a need to—but there’s a want to which then interferes.

If we take it away—and they are argumentative, and angry, and throw a fit—there’s an addiction probably going on there.

Dennis: I have a friend, who’s a principal, who told me one of the most dangerous times in the life of the teens that go to his school is between the hours of 11 and 1 am. He says there are a lot of kids, online; and there’s sexting / there’s bullying—there’s all kinds of chatter taking place that is unhealthy. Comment on that.

Kathy: Most definitely. A lot of kids who game on online games are playing at night because there are kids on their team who live in another time zone. They are required to play, sometimes, in the middle of the night so that those kids can play in the middle of the day.


Parents don’t know that. They should not be sleeping with their cell phone. They need to get an alarm clock—they don’t need their phone in their room. It needs to be on a charging station that mom and dad control. No pads of any type / no rectangle—no glowing rectangle in the bedroom at night.

I don’t think parents need it either—that’s where there’s hypocrisy, potentially. Again, I understand parents are different; but we’ve got to be really careful in how we present that to our kids so that we don’t give them an excuse to debate with us about that.

So take away the phone, take away the iPad, and take away the laptop. If they have a homework assignment, guess what? They do it in the den. They don’t do it in their bedroom, where we’re not supervising them. They should not have a glowing rectangle out of our sight often.

Dennis: Parents ought to take that device and maybe do a little past-history checkup to see where their children have been and when their children have been using the phone.

Kathy: Not maybe, most definitely. I totally do agree with that. Here’s what I have to say about that because kids will say, “Oh Dr. Kathy, that’s an invasion of my privacy.”


I’m like: “Good! Praise God you have a parent who loves you enough to be concerned with the state of your heart and your mind. You are so blessed, because I’ve been to places in the world where kids didn’t have anybody who cares. You have somebody who cares enough about you to put up with your anger? You are blessed! Now, go sit down.” The kids kind of laugh, but they get it.

Bob: Ten years ago, we would say to parents, “You should have the computer out in the family room.” In those days, the computer was big enough that it had to be in one place in the house. How things have changed because nobody has a desktop anymore—everybody has laptops—it’s all portable / you take it where you’re going.

Even if you leave the laptops out on the kitchen table, there’s still as you said, the glowing rectangle—whether that’s the tablet or the phone. You’re saying: “At bedtime—at nighttime / at ten or eleven o’clock—you put all that stuff out in public, and you go to your bedroom, and you’re away from it”?

Kathy: That’s what I recommend.


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 our eye, and our visual field, and the sleep patterns of the brain. This is the most sleep-deprived generation in the history of America. It’s partly because they are very busy; and they’re not using their time wisely because they are multitasking, and using tech to play games and do things that are irrelevant, maybe, to their schooling.

Dennis: Okay. Talk about other boundaries that you might put in place for a child that you fear is addicted? Would you take the phone away, the iPad, the computer for a period of time?

Kathy: “For a period of time”—that’s a great recommendation because I wouldn’t do it long-term because they need to learn how to use it with responsibility. You can take back the screen, and you can take back your kids.

Dennis: Oh really?

Kathy: Absolutely, there’s no reason not to. You’ll have to deal with pushback / you’ll have to be a strong enough parent to handle their anger, but you’ve got to do it.

Dennis: The United Nations may come on behalf of your child and say, “You’re a terrible parent.”

Kathy: Oh my goodness! “Be a parent.” I actually am brave enough in my book several times to say: “Be a parent.


“Learn to say, ‘No,’ and learn to say, ‘Yes,’ appropriately.” Many kids, by the way, have said, “Thank you, Dr Kathy.”

Dennis: Okay. I’m just telling our listeners: “Don’t turn the radio off because of what she just said—just stay with us”; alright? Here’s the warning though—it has been proven in research that addictions developed by teens, as they are growing up, make them more susceptible—some believe that 90 percent of all addictions are developed, somehow, back to the teen years. What’s the warning that parents need to hear about feeding this beast and allowing their children to do what they want to do?

Kathy: Man, you just said it so well. When the addiction channels in the brain are awakened, they will need to be fed. If we allow them to be addicted to gaming / to social media, then even if we take the phone away and even if they develop a habit to game less because they are going to go to college and they want to be a little bit more serious—



—those channels have been awakened. Something else is going to fill it—it’s going to be an illegal drug or an over-the-counter drug, it’ll be a sexual addiction / it could be an alcohol addiction—that’s so dangerous. What we do today matters for tomorrow.

Dennis: Yes, I totally agree with you. I think a lot of parents are agreeing with us as well. But here’s what we miss sometimes—our kids secretly may be agreeing too. Don’t miss the opportunity—your child is listening right now. He may go, “Oh I don’t like this at all”; but, in reality, he may really like it. You tell a story about a ten-year-old—is that right?

Kathy: Yes, I think he was nine or ten. I recommended to his parents that they choose one or two days a week to be free of all technology—I said, “Plug it in if you need it to cook by or see by,”—so the oven, the stove, and the light was all that I was recommending.

Bob: No TV, no Internet, no radio, no nothing?

Kathy: Exactly—one day during the week and one day during the weekend because the quiet is good / the rest is good, and the connection is more likely to occur.


These parents picked up their nine-year-old and their four-year-old from day care after they heard me speak. They were walking out to the car and they explained to their children what they were going to do because of me. They said, “You’re old enough, son—you choose the days.”

Well, he wisely chose Wednesday and Sunday because they’re in church a lot anyways. He’s thinking, “You know, this will be okay.” Well, a week-and-a-half later—so only after a Wednesday, Sunday, Wednesday—he comes up to me in the lobby at the church—makes a beeline for me: “Are you the lady?!” I’m like, “What lady?” “Are you the lady that made us turn it all off?”

I’m thinking: “Oh no. He’s not going to be happy with me, and I don’t know if I want to tell the truth; I am like, ‘Yes, I’m Dr. Kathy; and I was the one.’” Then he looked up at me and said: “Thank you. I got my Daddy back.” I watched the mom and the dad—that were leaning against the wall over here—and they both had tears in their eyes. He said to me: “My daddy—he took me to the park, and we played catch. My daddy—he taught me how to play checkers on a checker board that’s real.


“And because you said we could turn the oven on, my mom—she let me help her make chocolate chip cookies, and they were really good. I got my daddy back.” When I made that recommendation, I did it for the sake of the children.

In reality, the little boy skipped off down to children’s church—his parents came up to me. The man looked at me and said: “Kathy, I did not know how disengaged with my family I had become until I heard you speak. And now—I used to come home from work, and I would just want to check the bank account, but then I would go to, then I’d go to, and then I’d go to Before I knew it, I was not helping my wife prepare the meal / I was not alert to my children when they were awake. Now, because of you, I do all of that when they are in bed. Even on the days that are not tech-free, we don’t use it as much because we’ve rediscovered the joy of each other’s company.”

I’m so grateful that I get to do what I do.


I’m so grateful for those parents to believe me to try something for the sake of their kids that ended up benefiting them.

Dennis: Parents today need your voice to really help them have courage to fight against what is really the swift current of the culture. Colossians, Chapter 3, verse 20 says, “Children, obey your parents in everything for this pleases the Lord.” That assumes—that passage assumes the parents have given commands, directives, boundaries—that they’ve taught and that they are calling the children to action.

We just want to close the broadcast by saying to you, as a parent: “Be the parent. Don’t let the child become the authority. You are the parent / they are the child—they need you desperately. This is not a time to go AWOL.”


Bob: It is a good time for you to be on the same page—that you’re communicating with the same values and the same standards. It is definitely a good time for the two of you to make sure that, when it comes to technology, you’ve got some guidelines in place / some house rules for how technology is going to be handled at your home.

That’s where Kathy Koch’s book comes in—it’s called Screens and Teens. We’ve got it in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. Go, online, at Click the link in the upper left-hand corner of the screen that says, “GO DEEPER.” You can get a copy of Kathy’s book—again, it’s called Screens and Teens. Or call 1-800-FL-TODAY. Request a copy of the book when you get in touch with us. Again, the toll-free number is 1-800-358-6329. That’s 1-800-”F” as in Family, “L” as in life, and then the word, “TODAY.” Or find us, online, at



You know, the issues we’ve talked about today—when our oldest child was going through the teen years, most of this was not a factor. I remember we had one big box computer, down in the living room, and that was about it. People were just starting to do instant messaging, and there were chat rooms online. I mean, there were technology issues back then; but not like there are today.

The truth is that our world is changing. Parents need ongoing help and hope for how to raise their kids / what kind of strategies to employ—that’s what we’re here for, at FamilyLife Today. We want to provide you with consistent, practical biblical help for your marriage and for your family so that, no matter how much the culture changes, you’re still being guided by the unchanging truth of God’s Word.


We appreciate those of you who make this radio program possible. You help by underwriting the cost of producing and syndicating this daily program. Whether you are someone who makes a donation occasionally or you’re one of our regular monthly Legacy Partners—in either case, we are grateful for your participation with this ministry.

We’d like to express our gratitude today when you make a donation by sending you Barbara Rainey’s latest resource called “Untie Your Story.” This is a tool that she’s put together to help promote conversation around the dinner table—either at holidays or, just if you have a family meal, and you’d like to have a little meaningful conversation. You can use these napkin ties that have questions on them, and then everybody engages with the question. You have a little more in-depth conversation than, “How was your day?”

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Or mail your donation to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; the zip code is 72223.

Now, tomorrow, we are going to continue to talk about parenting, and technology, and standards, and all of the things we’ve been exploring this week. Dr. Kathy Koch will be back with us. Hope you can be here as well.

Thank you to our engineer, Keith Lynch, and 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.

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