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Managing Technology's Impact on Your Kids (Part 2)

Air date 03/05/2015

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Dr. Kathy Koch offers parents helpful insights and advice from her new book, Screens and Teens: Connecting With Our Kids in a Wireless World. (Part 2 of 2)

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Episode Transcript

Opening:

Teaser:

Dr. Kathy Koch: One of my favorite examples is, that all the cell phones go in the middle of the table and the first one that reaches for the phone pays the bill. (Laughter)

Jim Daly: There's a good idea.

Kathy: So, I recommend that.

John Fuller: That's good, I like that.

End of Teaser:

John: Well, that should get your teenager's attention, don't you think? And you'll hear more from Dr. Kathy Koch, some provocative insights and some really good advice about how you can parent well with technology in your home, on today's "Focus on the Family" with Jim Daly and I'm John Fuller.

Body:

Jim: John, the last discussion we had with Kathy Koch was so good, because we're not saying technology is bad in and of itself. It really is the abuse of it and allowing it to abuse you. And particularly when it comes to our teens, not to let it be the wedge that comes between us, but to leverage it; to use it for good and then to limit it, so that it doesn't overtake both us and our teenagers. And I think there was so much great wisdom in it. I'm looking forward to today's program, as well. And with that, let me welcome Kathy back to the broadcast.

Kathy: Thank you so much.

John: Well, Kathy has been here a number of times is the founder of Celebrate Kids Incorporated. She's a very popular speaker and author and the book, Jim, that forms the foundation for our conversation today is called Screens and Teens. (Laughter) You know, these days it could be called Screens and Toddlers, there's so much technology happening in our culture.

Jim: Well, it's true and you need to parent it and to be effective and to keep the dangers away and yet, to leverage it. I mean, my boys are doin' reports at school that they're on there, takin' a look at it. They're doing reports that I didn't do to that level of quality until I was in college.

John: Uh-hm, yeah.

Jim: And you can do that today in junior high, because of the access we have, because of technology. Kathi, let me ask you, that little table analogy right at the top of the program. That desire, that almost addiction, maybe just it is an addiction to have to be in the know, to not let your friends post things and others know things that you don't know, drives us to social media. It compels us. We don't want to be on the out, so to speak. How do we control that urge? How do we just finally say, you know, enough is enough. I don't need to be constantly doing text messaging so I'm that connected. Nobody should be that connected.

Kathi: We develop that maturity to believe that, right?

Jim: Hopefully.

Kathi: Hopefully. I know of people who have gotten themselves off of things like Facebook, because they determined that it wasn't healthy and that it was becoming a prideful comparison, I have a kid cuter than your kid and my living room is prettier than yours. I'm (Laughter) makin' my Christmas cookies.

And one of those things that I post on Mother's Day on our Facebook page, is be grateful for the flowers you received, if you received some and stop comparing them to everybody else's. And those kinds of posts are "liked" more than probably any other post I post.

Jim: Why is that?

Kathi: Because I think they're desperate to be reminded that it's about them and their relationships and it's not about everybody else's. The danger of the "like" factor, right, you know, like for instance, I'll post a blog and I'll think it's a pretty good blog (Laughter) and I'll wake up the next day and I'm wondering how many times was it shared? And if it wasn't shared often, was it still a good blog? Or do I now choose to believe that it wasn't because I let them control my beliefs about myself? That's dangerous.

There's a place where we can get feedback from them and it's interesting and fun and there's a place where a place where it develops a very prideful, "I'm the center of my own universe" mentality. When we were little, when we were young, when we were in middle school, how did we know if we were popular?

Jim: Probably mostly by the friends you hung out with and the circles you were in.

John: And how quickly I didn't get picked for sports teams.

Jim: Oh, that's true. (Laughter) And did someone ask you to dance in junior high?

Kathi: Right and did somebody say, "Hey, come sit with me," maybe in the cafeteria? Today's kids know if they're popular by a quantitative number.

Jim: I mean, that's brutal.

Kathi: It is brutal and it's manipulative and it's dangerous and it's false.

Jim: You know, I hadn't thought about this till now, Kathi and we haven't touched on it, but there was a whole rash of stories and they may still be going on, but because they're so prevalent, maybe they're not hitting the national news the way they once did.

But teen girls particularly, who were brutalized by savage comments on the Internet about them. And they may have been popular girls or unpopular girls, that just because they put somebody in the wrong way, they were attacked or bulled online or something like that. Talk about the effect of that and how … I mean, it drove some of these girls in particular, to commit suicide.

Kathi: Uh-hm, words matter, right? The words we speak and the words we don't speak change lives. We've got to teach our children that. We have got to make sure our children are responsible for their language. They can't control what other kids do, but they can control what they say and if we teach them that, I think they have a better filter through which to read other people's comments, because they might say, "Well, that child's not been raised in a kind environment, therefore, she said that." But it's not true.

Again, do we as parents tell our children who they are specifically? You are generous and outgoing and kind and courageous. And you are a good playmate to your sister and you're a creative writer. Do they know those things about themselves, so that when they read the bully's statement, they recognize it for what it is—

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: --which is a manipulative statement. This is a young person who's trying to make you believe something about yourself that isn't true. And we need to do that carefully as parents, that they don't go to school then and hate that person who said that, 'cause that would not be God-honoring, but to help them filter that through with truth and then again, maybe depending upon what was said, we say things like, "Did you do anything that would cause that child to believe that about you?" Or "Is it all lies? And can you convince me of that?"

Jim: Let me ask you in that conversation as a mom, you know, somebody picks up their teen daughter today at school and they're on their way home and she bursts into tears and somebody has posted something that was horrible about her. And mom has to figure out how to engage this. What would you say they could do?

Kathi: The first thing again is, "I'm so sorry that your heart is hurting. I'm sad for you. Would you like to take a break from social media for a while?"

Jim: Oh, get her away from it.

Kathi: Yeah, I would ask—

Jim: That's a good idea.

Kathi: --the question—

Jim: I hadn't even thought of that.

Kathi: --I would ask the question to a boy or a girl, "Do you want to take a break?" Because some … and "Would you like mom to help you do that?" And we'll disable your account for a while." Or whatever it would need to take.

So that the child has the ownership there of making that decision. And the mom or dad might want to elaborate and say things like, you know, "We value you so much; we're concerned for the lies that you're hearing about yourself or the lies that you're reading about your friends. And we think that it's dangerous and maybe it's not a healthy thing for your peer group to be engaged in. Would you be open to us closing your account for a while?" "But then how will I know what's going on?"

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: Well, the old-fashioned, have the conversation in the cafeteria and choose three or four peer group members to really become friends, rather than all of these acquaintances that you're trying to keep happy, which is so unrealistic, even for adults who have the maturity to know that.

Jim: And I just feel like in that social media space, not just for teens, but adults, too, which is really dismaying, it's like we have no restraint, no social approach to make our comments.

Kathi: Exactly. We love the power we have on social media. We love the control we think we have over somebody else's attitudes and reactions. So, it's a big game we're playing, that I want to be in control; I can make you feel bad and I—

Jim: Well, and that—

Kathi: --love that.

Jim: --that does create kind of the thing I wanted to touch on next was that narcissism—

Kathi: Uh-hm.

Jim: --that self-focus, that control feast.

Kathi: Uh-hm.

Jim: And you know, the human appetite, the human heart gravitates toward those things. The exact opposite of what God wants in us in terms of the fruit of the Spirit being on display, the love and the joy and the peace. These things that are being developed because of the environments we're placing ourselves are detrimental to our spiritual development. You know, we're leaning in to the flesh, rather than leaning into God's character. That's a problem.

Kathi: Absolutely and that's so well-stated. This is why we need to very careful of what privileges we allow our children to have, what devices should they have and what platforms on those devices should we allow them to use. And we need to watch their behaviors and we need to listen to their beliefs. And if we feel that their beliefs are changing and their behaviors are becoming less godly and less Christ-like, we should assume technology is a factor in that and then we make the decision about time limits, day limits, actual device limits, if you will, absolutely.

Jim: Hm.

Kathi: Because they're learning to be self-centered, selfish and it's all about me. Can you imagine 10 10-year-olds or 10 14-year-olds in a room and they all think it's all about them?

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: No wonder they're not relating well.

Jim: What about a nation of people who think it's all about them?

Kathi: Thank you.

Jim: Or a city or you know, a church.

Kathi: Right.

John: Dr. Kathi Koch, what you're saying is pretty convicting, because that requires me to know my child, to be around to see what they're doing, to observe, to make wise choices about how I respond. That's hard work and it's just easier to let them have the technology.

Kathi: Right.

John: And you can find out more about Dr. Koch's resources, this book, Screens and Teens. You can get the download or the CD or you can download our mobile app at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio or call us if you have some questions. Our number is 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Jim: Kathi, we need to engage how God sees how all this, 'cause I'm curious about that. You know, the Lord, He made the sand that all of this technology is basically (Laughter) built on. So, the "chip" and He gave very bright people the ability to figure out how to take sand and make a silicon chip. I mean, it's hard to speak on behalf of God; I understand that. (Laughter)

John: Take a shot at it.

Jim: Yeah (Laughter), but take a shot at it. When He's doing this, what do you think His heart is feeling?"

Kathi: I think He's sad for the loneliness that it has caused, something that's very hard to be with people and be alone and that's what I hear from a lot of teenagers. They're gaming on teams, but they're lonely. They're texting. They have all these numbers in their cell phone, but they're still lonely. I think God grieves that we're using people so that we feel popular, but in reality, it's not working. So, I think He's sad and I think He's concerned, because loneliness drives really unhealthy behavior.

I think He's concerned about the use of time. I think He's concerned about people who read a verse on an app and think they've read the Bible for the day. I think He's sad that we can look up a verse in isolation to answer a question and not recognize the whole context and not realize what it was that God intended that to really mean.

I'm very concerned about people who are reading, even an excellent devotional every morning and calling that their quiet time and they're reading it in the car at a red light. So, I think God grieves some of that. Do I think that there are great conveniences? Absolutely. Am I grateful for Bible software? Absolutely. So, there's good in it. Can we find people and develop healthy relationships with people that we lost track of? Yeah, it's great. So, there's really good things that are going on there and maybe God was hoping we would stay there.

Jim: Well, and to be fair, what you're saying, 'cause lot of people just went "Ouch." Really, you know, it hurts.

Kathi: I'm trying to be careful, right.

Jim: Well, but truth is good.

Kathi: Well, thank you.

Jim: And we need that reprimand. I think we do too little of it in the church, to be quite honest. But I think what you're really saying is, you have to still your heart and spend, you know, that quality time with the Lord, to hear His voice, to meditate on His Word. You can't do that at a stoplight. And I'm guilty of that. Man, I do that, you know. I'll take a quick look at a verse and, "Hey, Lord, thanks for that fortune cookie today."

Kathi: Hm.

Jim: That's what it ends up being, is a fortune cookie—

Kathi: Oh, is that thoughtful

Jim: -- rather than the Word from God's heart to ours.

Kathi: So, let me share this with you. All of us have become more impatient, in my opinion, because of the click of the mouse, the search engine, etc. So, even adults are more impatient than we used to be. Young people tend to be very impatient, because the mind is wired for technology. Everything's quick. Everything's instant. Everything's easy.

So, their prayers, if they pray, they're very self-centered. Technology has taught them. They really don't need anybody in their authority.

Jim: Right, drop-down screen prayer.

Kathi: Yeah, I can find everything there that I need, so they're either not praying or they're praying and then doing what they were going to do anyway, but feeling justified, 'cause at least they prayed, 'cause they're not waiting for the answer, because waiting is so hard. And because they have pods in their ears and our culture's very noisy, can they even hear the voice of God? Do they know Him well enough to know Him in them? That's a very strong concern I have.

And when I talk to young people, one of my favorite lines is to say to them, "God will not rewrite the Bible for your generation. Patience will be forever and always a fruit of the Spirit.

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: Are you following Christ or aren't you? You could hear a pin drop and sometimes they clap, because they are desperate to know truth.

Jim: Right.

Kathi: They are created by a loving God, who wants them fully following Him. And yet, the young people, they'll say to me, one of 'em will go, "I didn't realize that that's why I was so impatient, but you're right. It's that mouse and it like it so much." And then I'm like, "You did well to write your papers. I'm thrilled for you that you have all the ease of technology, but don't let it lie to you that perseverance isn't good. The Scripture says that when you persevere, you develop character. In your character, you find hope, right?

Jim: Right.

Kathi: Or in God you find hope. We have a generation that may never learn that, because they U-turn away from the challenge, 'cause there's always something else they could do that's easier.

Jim: That's a good way to do it, how do we go about looking at the fruit of the Spirit and trying to aim our children in developing those wonderful attributes?

Kathi: We do it from the time they're born. We do it with our own modeling and our own life and our own interaction, hello?

Jim: (Chuckling) Seeing the fruit.

Kathi: Absolutely. We talk about it; we teach it. We don't just tell it, we teach it. We don't just ask them to be joyful. We teach them what joy is. We talk about how to develop patience, even in the midst of the easy culture in which we live. So, we talk about it. We model it. We point them to the Scripture. We talk about the character of Christ, exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. And we correct it, compliment it and if you will, grade it and talk about it, just like we talk about math, science, history and their piano.

Jim: How would you go about doing that? I mean, really, John and I, your two sons, "Hey, John's hittin' me. Why are you pickin' on me?"

John: He deserved it.

Jim: "He always hates me. He just hates me, Mom." Go ahead, it's practical. This is the world we live in.

Kathi: Children need to suffer the consequences of their choices and they need to know that it's their choice to demean a brother, it's a choice to tease a sister, it's a choice to play badly and the consequence is separation. The consequence is, I take that game away for a while.

The reward would be, teaching you a game to play with your brother. The research says it's best that there are negative and positive consequences in play. And I also think that it's a key, that if your children didn't used to be like that, we ask ourself [sic], what has happened? What's changed in our home culture, so that the argumentative behavior has ramped up. And it may be technology and then we take a break from the Wii, take a break from the gaming; we take a break from the social media, or they're believing a lie about themselves that's showing up in the way that they react to their brother.

Jim: You know, that's really interesting you say that. When we did The Family Project, which is that curriculum that's really so good, mostly about marriage and family formation, but if you don't know about it, call us here.

John: We've got details online about it.

Jim: It is really good and the reason, what you said just there, there's a part of The Family Project, where they're highlighting the origin of isolation in a prison. Prisons started with penitentiary and that is derived from "penitent." And this is like, you know, in the 1700's, that if you put somebody in isolation, put them with their sin before God for a long period of time, that they would have to come to some resolution about good and evil and that would help them become repentant in their sin.

And I find it interesting even in parenting what you just mentioned there, that isolation approach. We do that in prisons when inmates are not behaving well. We separate them. We put them in isolation. And in parenting, we even do that. It's the consequence if you can't behave socially in a[n] appropriate way, we're gonna send you to your room.

Kathi: Uh-hm.

Jim: It's almost something there that the human heart yearns for relationship and one of the greatest things, the greatest penalties we can give is to put you in a place where you can't have relationship. And I just find that very profound.

Kathi: It's very interesting and one of the keys to it being effective is that we don't place them necessarily in their room where they have all their technology.

Jim: Oh, right.

Kathi: So, they isolate from the person that they were teasing and possibly also from the technology, so that they have quiet and solitude, which the research says, none of us have enough of and the brain benefits from, because ideas sift and sort and become ours.

Jim: Well, I think even in an environment, not just simply send your child into isolation, into that room, but explain, it would be good for you to talk to the Lord about what He's saying to your heart.

Kathi: Uh-hm.

Jim: You probably won't hear an audible voice, but what I have done that with my boys. What is He speaking to your heart? Can you hear it?

Kathi: Yes.

Jim: And thankfully, they both have said at times, absolutely.

Kathi: Ah.

Jim: I hear that conviction and I think that helps train them to be sensitive to the voice of the Holy Spirit. Don't go left; go right, that kind of direction.

Kathi: And to teach them that in hard times, God is available and God is—

Jim: In all times.

Kathi: --full of grace. Yes, in all times. God is full of grace and mercy and not Someone we should run from.

Jim: Absolutely.

Kathi: And what about, Jim, your boys hearing you pray for them?

Jim: Oh, I think, yeah.

Kathi: When you pray audibly over your boys, with your boys and they hear your heart for them and their choices and their obedience and that you would love them to find joy, doesn't that just bond you together and help your sons and daughters, if you're raising girls, know your heart for them and your dreams for them?

Jim: Absolutely and I think one of the great things that sometimes we can overlook in our parenting is when they are contrite. You know, the job is being done and I've got, you know, one of my boys, he will mess up. He'll make mistakes, but almost 100 percent of the time, he'll come and say, "I'm sorry I did that" or I said that or I acted that way.

And sometimes you can, I think as a parent, you can dismiss that, especially if it's the 50th time that this child has done that. But you have to admire the brokenness when 50 times they come back and say, "You know what? I'm sorry, I failed here." You've got to encourage that, because the Lord is standing with them in that. And over the long haul, even if it takes them 150 times to figure it out, that's what you want in their heart. That's the transaction that you want going on.

Kathi: Absolutely. And then possibly we say, "What might you do next time—

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: --when you're tempted in a similar way?" Or "Have you thought about other uses of quiet times, so that the same dilemma won't present itself?"--

Jim: Yeah.

Kathi: --where we again, become potentially the teacher in that or even to say, "Did God speak truth over you, so that you know what to do next?"

Jim: Yeah. Hey, let's end on the high note, the good things about teens today. I mean, you've written Teens and Screens. There is some tough stuff happening in the culture when it comes to teens. We all talk about it. We bemoan it. We talk so much about the negative and we need to lift up the positive and there are many positive things going on in the teen culture today. I've seen some tremendous commitment from many kids.

Kathi: That's so cool that you have. I have, too. One of the things that I wanted to say is that, it's not that fault they are the way they are, because they've been raised with technology. So, before I answer specifically the question of what's good, I want us to all understand that if we were their age, we would be like them.

Jim: Absolutely.

Kathi: And that's so important that we understand as the adults, that it's not their fault they're impatient. They're impatient because of what we've allowed them to use and what we've allowed them to experience. It's not their fault they're narcissistic, because they have the fear of missing out and they think the world revolves around them and etc., etc. So, that knowledge in our brain and in our mind, if you will, and when we know that about them, that it's not their fault, we parent differently from a position of hope and optimism and less blame and shame. So, I think that's very important that we understand. One of the things that's really good about this generation is they want to improve the world.

Jim: Very much so.

Kathi: They've seen it broken all over social media. They've seen YouTube videos. They've seen TV commercials. They've seen documentaries. When I was a child, I heard about children starving in Africa and then I might have seen somebody's illustration of what that child might've looked like.

Today's kids are growing up seeing children starve in Africa on their social media feed. So, they're broken by that. Now some kids raised with a pessimistic environment, will be hopeless and overwhelmed by all the brokenness that they see, because it's real time raw, unedited footage, right? When something happens in a school or in a war zone, we see it—

Jim: Oh, yeah.

Kathi: --blood, guts and gore and all of it. But children raised with an optimistic, change-oriented family where we believe that we can be ambassadors of hope and healing, they're gonna be all over it. "Daddy, would you help me raise money for this cause?" Or you know, high school kids that are collecting clothes for the homeless, which I never would've done that as a kid.

So, I like that they're oriented toward improving the world, which is one of the reasons that we should stop asking the question, "What do you want to be when you grow up?" 'cause there's so many options that they're paralyzed. Or "Where do you want to go to college?" So many options because of the world-wide Web has exposed them to so much, that they're overwhelmed. The better question, "What problems do you want to help solve?"

I love to serve with the children, have the family serve together, so that you have the conversations that continue at home about how did you feel? And I noticed that you were very skilled at such and such. And that is who you're becoming and I'm so proud of you. And then they believe that they can solve the world's problems and they won't become overwhelmed by what they see around them.

Jim: It's a good thing. I'm optimistic, as well. I mean, you can be pessimistic about so much, but I think the Lord, He raises up exactly what He needs in the generation He is working through. And I think it's a lack of faith, not to trust that God's got the plan. And He's workin' it, through home-school kids, through all kinds of kids that are growin' up right now, being equipped to think critically, to reach out in the love of God and to change the world. And I really struggle with Christian leadership that douses the 20-, 30-somethings who are gettin' out there and gettin- it done, but they're not saying it the right way or they're not, you know, referencing Scripture the right way. My goodness, did we learn nothing from what Jesus told the Pharisees? And I say, "Go get 'em, kids, young people. Go do it. Lead it."

Kathi: Right.

Jim: Well, that's good. Kathi Koch, author of the book, Screens and Teens, thank you for putting that down on paper and all the work that you do at Celebrate Kids. I love the title. Thanks for being with us.

Kathi: You're welcome. Thank you so much.

Closing:

John: A helpful note to end on these past couple days and your teen can have a tremendous impact on the world around them. Certainly technology can be a tool for that and you'll want to get a copy of Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World. And it provides such insight into those lies that technology tends to tell us, especially our children and how to address those and also, how you can have some ideas about building deeper, more meaningful relationships with your child around technology. So, look for a copy and the CD or instant download of this radio program and our mobile app, as well at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio.

And now, we're posting at our website an informative step-by-step guide for you as a parent, to encourage your teen to use social media in healthy ways, to avoid online predators and how to respond if they're cyberbullied. This is a free document. You can get it at the site. It's called "Social Networking Challenges Every Parent Should Know."

And since 1977, we've been offering families trusted advice and one mom recently told us about the generational impact that Focus on the Family has had in her life. She said, "As a parent of three kids, I love 'Focus on the Family.' I've been tuning in for more than 20 years. I listened to your program as a child and now I'm able to take advantage of the resources offered by Focus as I raise my own children. Keep running the race and know that you're touching generation after generation."

That's heartwarming to hear and it's evidence of God's work through Focus on the Family and that's only possible because you partner with us. You provide the financial fuel, if you will, for us to continue making radio programs and hosting events and producing films and having rich websites. And if you love what we're doing here, if you've benefitted, then please consider joining our support team and make a donation today. Every dollar that you give allows us to continue a worldwide outreach to help families. And today when you make a generous donation of any amount, we'll send a copy of Dr. Kathi Koch's book, Screens and Teens, as our way of saying thank you and perhaps helping you make a generational impact in your own family. Make that donation today online at www.focusonthefamily.com/radio, from our mobile app or when you call 800, the letter A and the word FAMILY.

Our program today was provided by Focus on the Family and on behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, I'm John Fuller, thanking you for listening and inviting you back next time, when we'll hear an amazing story from a couple about how God redeemed their broken marriage and restored their love. You'll hear that story tomorrow, as we once again, help your family thrive.

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Guest

Kathy Koch

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Dr. Kathy Koch is the founder and president of Celebrate Kids, Inc., an organization dedicated to helping parents and educators understand and meet the needs of today's children. She is also an international speaker and the author of several books including Screens and Teens, No More Perfect Kids and How Am I Smart? Dr. Koch earned her Ph.D. in reading and educational psychology from Purdue University. She resides in Ft. Worth, TX.