John Fuller: This is John Fuller with “Focus on the Family” and Jim Daly asked me to share some great news with you about a victory for religious freedom. We’re so thankful for the Supreme Court decision that allows Jack Phillips, a baker in Denver, to run his business according to his Christian beliefs. As you know, many in our culture are trying to force their values upon others in the name of tolerance, but they are, in fact, intolerant of opposing views
That was the case for Jack, who was accused of discrimination when he declined to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. Now, the case went to the Supreme Court of the United States, and yesterday, in a 7-2 vote, the court recognized, and affirmed, Jack’s religious freedom.
This right is guaranteed by the 1st Amendment, and granted to us, ultimately, by God.
We celebrate with Jack Phillips today and ask your continued prayer for religious liberty in this nation. Thanks.
And read more about this victory at Jim’s blog: JimDaly.focusonthefamily.com
Dr. Kathy Koch: This is where we were to be brave, and we have to say no. I love you too much. You’re my responsibility. God’ given you to us for a period of time. And man, we’re gonna parent you well.
End of Excerpt
John: That’s Dr. Kathy Koch, and she’s our guest today on “Focus on the Family” with Jim Daly. I’m John Fuller. And thanks for joining us today.
Jim Daly: John, in preparation for this program, I read some astonishing stats. Practically, every minute of every day - here’s what I read - Twitter users send over 400,000 tweets. This is every minute. Google conducts more than 3 million searches. YouTube users watch over 4 million videos.
John: A minute.
Jim: A minute - and more than 15 million texts are sent and nearly 270 million email messages all in one minute.
Jim: I mean, is that - you look at the volume of that. It’s astonishing. And this generation actually spends more time with their technology than with their parents - the kids today. And we want to address that. Technology is here to stay. There’s no doubt. But as parents, we need to practice discernment on how we use it and how we model it for our kids and then how our children are beginning to make those choices as well. That’s one reason we have our free Parents Guide to Technology. It’s downloadable. Just get it. It’s at least an introduction. And then today, we’re going to go into more in-depth counsel on what parents should be doing with Dr. Kathy Koch.
John: Yeah. She’s a great guest and we’ll introduce her in just a moment. Let me just say you can get the help you need, that parents’ guide and then Dr. Kathy’s book at focusonthefamily.com/radio. Or call us - 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY.
And Dr. Koch is the founder of Celebrate Kids, Inc. And she’s the author of a number of books. We’ve talked about a lot of them here in the broadcast. And she’s a favorite every time she’s with us. Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in A Wireless World is forming the foundation for conversation today. And our listeners may have seen Dr. Kathy in Kirk Cameron’s documentary called Connect.
Jim: Kathy, we’re so great to have you back here on “Focus on the Family.”
Kathy: Thank you. I’m thrilled to be back - really honored.
Jim: I think part of my enthusiasm is I’m living it right now with two teenagers in the home. So, you probably are, too, John.
John: I’m saying no as long as I can get to the request for a phone.
Jim: That piece that Kirk Cameron did Connect - you were a part of that. You were one of the expert voices in there. Do you hope that has a great impact, or what do you think?
Kathy: Oh, yes. And I know it has.
Jim: Oh, OK.
Kathy: Families went together. Preteens and teens and their moms and dads - some parents went without their kids. But we’ve heard great things when it was in the studio. And now we’re thrilled the DVD comes out and...
Jim: Comes out today.
Kathy: June 5, right - and we’re excited that families can watch it together in the living room. Maybe some small groups will get together. And, you know, I think it’s positive parenting. The movie - Kirk and his wife Chelsea are all about the family. They’re all about parenting strong and being brave in these hard times and saying no when you should and saying yes when you can. And so, the movie is really about being a parent. And he uses technology as the thing that we’re talking about today that can distract the children and really make the family out of balance, if you will. But it’s very positive. It was an honor to be there.
Jim: Well, I’m going to get a copy today and take it home and watch it tonight.
John: There you go.
Jim: Hey, let’s start with technology and how it rewrites our children’s brains, you know, the physiology of what technology is doing to our kids today.
Kathy: Um-hm. You know, it’s really fascinating, Jim, that the brain isn’t finished until age 25. And, you know...
Jim: (Laughter) That’s true.
Kathy: I mean, if you’re parenting a 26-year-old maybe you’re really disappointed to find that out. But we’re always learning obviously. We can learn today even if we’re much older. But through the age of 25, the neurons in the brain are connected through the things that we do frequently. So, when we’re born, only 20 percent of the communication connections are hardwired by our creator. That’s why all of us will learn language. All of us will roll over, creep, crawl, walk eventually but...
Jim: That’s the 20 percent part.
Kathy: Twenty percent - right - so 80 percent of the communication connection occurs after children are born, which is why parenting matters so much as does education and church. Any place that kids go off in is going to influence the way that they believe life is supposed to occur for them. And so, if kids are around technology all the time, that’s going to wire their brains to expect everything to be quick, everything to be vibrant, everything to be loud, everything to be about them. And this is why when they read a textbook, if you will, it’s, like, boring, because their name isn’t in there. Well, welcome to life 101. You know, it’s - life doesn’t work like technology works. So that’s why it can become really, really hard. And that’s why I think Kirk made the movie Connect and why I wrote the book and why we’re here today.
Jim: Yeah. Absolutely. You know, in fairness, we got to admit the research on that brain maturation. Because boys tend to be about 25, girls about 22, 23. So once again, girls are ahead of the guys.
John: That’s not a news flash for a lot of us.
Jim: That’s not a news flash, especially if you have teen boys. You know that’s the truth. Let’s talk about that average mom or dad who may be addicted to their own phone or tablet. Yeah. Let’s start with the...
Kathy: Let’s start where it’s hard.
Jim: ...Where it’s hard. Give us that advice about modeling. And your kids need - you need to be careful about what your kids are watching you do as a parent, right?
Kathy: Seriously, I love that you started there. I hope people listen to the show. No, because that’s what kids tell me, Jim. They - you know, I wish my mom would turn off her phone. I wish my dad would get off of the websites. So, it is here to stay as you said. It’s good. It’s not bad in and of itself. I want to encourage parents to be fully present to their children, which means that the device is not on their belt or in their pocket. It’s actually maybe in a whole [a]nother room because...
Jim: Especially when you’re at home.
Kathy: Right. Right. There’s really no excuse. But all of us are distracted by the ting, right? You know, you hear that you have an incoming message. And now we’re like, oh, shoot. Was that important? You start to salivate.
Kathy: Oh, my goodness.
Jim: What was that - an old science experiment, right? - with dogs.
Kathy: We do. And that’s proof. I mean, it’s - we’re laughing, but it’s not funny, right? - because that is proof of the addiction of that dopamine drop in the brain. And that’s why it’s so hard for us to give it up. But you know what, guys? If we’re not willing, why would our kids be willing? If we don’t show them that they matter more to us than that toy and that communication that could take place with that other person then they’re going to - they’re not going to be fully available to us. And it’s going to be a tragic thing.
Jim: That’s so true. I think that’s one of the things that we’ve tried to do well at our homes. You know, Jean and I are pretty good about putting the phones away when we walk in the door. And, you know, we may reference them a couple times before bed just to make sure there’s no emergency. But I think fairly... good at that. But talk about that in terms of how to contain it at home. You know, having the kids put it away, not take it to their bedroom. Those are common things that we’ve done.
Kathy: Absolutely. You know, I think a charging station at night is totally appropriate. You know, I would love for - when the children are awake for us to be tech-free as much as possible, meaning the dad checks the bank account when the kids are in bed, that mom does her Pinterest recipe scrolling when the kids are napping or in bed and that, if we’re using technology, maybe we’re using it together for fun or we’re researching where we’re going to go on the family vacation in July. But as much as possible, reading together, exploring together, playing together - that’s when emotions connect. That’s when relationships build. And we can all do this. We can get our kids back if we’re willing to be brave. And here’s the thing, guys. To prioritize the relationship. Do we want to be in relationship with our children? Children tell me that they know when it feels like an obligation that mom is asking, “How was your day?” versus a mom who really wants to press in and find out, “No, really? How was your day? You know, what brought you joy to day? And what confused you today? And what can we do tonight together?’’ Do we want to know our kids? And you gentlemen know that when children are known, it matters to them. When children know that they’re known, they feel safe and secure - right? - they’re willing to risk. They’re willing to be vulnerable. And this is what kids tell me, Jim. “Dr. Kathy, I’m afraid to start a heavy conversation because my mom will be distracted and then I’m going to have to start over.” And it’s too hard...
Jim: Oh, really?
Kathy: Right. So, if they have something they want to share with the mom or dad - and it’s heavy - you know, they were bullied. Or they were confused by what a kid did, or they’re - they want to take a babysitting job, but they’re really not sure if they should go with their friends. And they want to reason that out with mom. And they want mom’s insight, praise God. But mom’s got her phone in her hand because she’s wondering if there’s going to be an incoming text, which is legitimate. That communication’s legitimate. However, to a child, it feels like I am less important.
Kathy: Intrusion - ooh, powerful word. So, when children feel that then they’re less willing to engage. And kids do tell me that if it’s an important topic - it’s going to be heavy and hard - I don’t want to start, to then have to restart.
Jim: There’s so many questions circulating in my head when you say these things because on the one side I could hear a parent, especially dad, who comes home and says, “Well, Dr. Kathy, it’s important. I’ve got to stay connected. My world’s 24/7, unfortunately.” Remember when technology came in, it was going to free us up...
Jim: ...To give us more time with family. And it’s done exactly the opposite.
Jim: And it hasn’t done the free-time thing. It’s consumed us until we go to bed. Because we let it.
Kathy: We have allowed it.
Kathy: Exactly. We have allowed it to consume us.
Jim: So that’s one thing, is that attitude that a parent might have which is I’ve got to stay connected. So, let me ask you, and then I’ll get to the next question which is on the kid’s side. But how does a parent who is addicted - let’s just call it what it is. And when the ding goes and the dopamine drops in your brain, you feel a compulsion. And you know I’m talking to you. You know who - if I’m saying it, you’re going, “oh, that’s me.” OK. What do we do to start breaking that habit?
Kathy: We recognize it’s a habit that’s unhealthy. And we choose to change. And probably accountability is necessary. It might be a spouse or roommate. It might even be an older child. And we agree together to make changes. I believe in the pronoun, we. We need to make some changes here is way more inviting than a parent saying to a child, “You need to turn that off and put that down.” So, if we can use the “we” pronoun and model for our kids, and let them even help us, because we are living and learning and working and loving in a community called the family - there’s nothing wrong with kids earning the right to have some accountability or be even accountability for us. Otherwise, we have a pastor, a best friend, a co-worker to help us with that reaction. I do think putting it in another room out of sight, out of mind is valuable. I also find that having alternatives visible really matters for adults and for kids. So, having a board game on the coffee table and a jigsaw puzzle on a card table in the corner and Sudoku book and a coloring book and the colored pencils and a football, basketball, soccer ball the back door so that we come in from church and we go, “Here, let’s go shoot hoops.” Because we see that there’s something else we can do.
Jim: Dr. Kathy, I want to move to the content of the book. And we’ve been touching on it, but very specifically the lies that you reference that so many teenagers particularly, but so many parents and teenagers believe. One is I’m the center of my own universe. Now, we point to the teenage world as being rather narcissistic, self-focused. But that’s the human condition actually. But in the teen years, it seems to be illuminated because they just haven’t had life experience yet. They haven’t learned that it’s not all about you. They’re still living off of this idea that I’m at the center of the universe. Why do we need to shake them loose? And how do we do that when it comes to technology?
Kathy: Well, right. You know, and all of us, when we were their age, probably felt we were the center. But we grew out of that, right?
Jim: (Chuckling) Yes.
Kathy: We had - you know, we had a culture that said, no, you’re wrong. Now the whole culture is screaming we’re each the center of our own universe. You know, the “like” factor? You know, one of the stories I tell is that when I was a child if the phone rang, I had to answer it. We had no clue who was there. We didn’t even have a voicemail.
Jim: And you had to get up and go answer it (laughter).
Kathy: Exactly. And everybody in the home could listen to the whole conversation I was having because it was attached to the wall. And now when my phone rings, I can look at it and go, “Oh, I’m not in the mood” and pretend that person doesn’t exist. You know, when we were kids, we developed a roll of film and paid for it all even if the pictures were bad. Now, you take a picture and you can correct it and show it to the world and get a like factor. So, we think where the center. So again, they come to it legitimately. We need to stand against the tide and make sure that they understand that every person was created in the image of God. And every person has value. And God is the center and always will be, has a right to be there. None of us are more important than anybody else. And none of us have the same, you know, equivalency, if you will, of God - so, so, so important. So, we’ve got to stop treating our kids like they’re the center.
Jim: And how do we prepare them in that way? How do we jolt them in a healthy way to make sure that they’re at least on the path to becoming the non-center of the universe?
Kathy: Yeah. You know, I think serving together is really valuable. I believe that children serving with groups of kids in a school or a church is valuable. When a family serves together, when your family collects diapers for the pregnancy resource center, when your family goes and serves the homeless and the hungry, when you go and you scrub down all the toys in the Sunday school room, you know, and they’re disinfected for the next week, you served together. The mom and the dad and the kids have conversations that are really rich. And the kid gets to say, “You know, Dad, how did you feel when you gave away your shoes?” You know, and the dad gets to express his emotion. And then, “How did you feel?” And the son says, “Man, that same thing happened. Daddy, I have more shoes I could have brought. Could we come back next Saturday?” I mean, it gives me chills because when you serve you get your eyes off of yourself, right? And you discover that not everybody is like you, not everybody lives like you, not everybody believes what you believe. And that’s OK. And so, I think that’s a huge thing.
Jim: You know, let me ask you in that respect, Kathy. The excuse can be, “I’m busy.”
Jim: But we’ve got to be very careful as parents. Because what are the important lessons that you want to learn? I want to make sure that the listeners connecting that - those dots there that I said teens are the center of their universe. How do you practically go about positioning them in a healthy way emotionally? And you’re saying volunteer together. And I want to make sure we highlight that. What you’re saying is so true. Make time to do it.
Kathy: Absolutely. What are your priorities? What do you say are your priorities, and what is showing up? And what’s your vision for your family? And who do you want to launch? You know, do you have a vision for your children? I pray you do. And it probably going to revised every once in a while as your children indicate more of their gifts and their delights. But who are you wanting to help them become? And serving will rock the wheel. That’s how kids discover their gifts, their passions, their joys. And, if I could say, shouldn’t love compel us, right? God’s love compels him toward us. Our love for people should compel us toward them. And if we are believers, we ought to be loving. We ought to be other centered. Children tell me all the time, Dr. Kathy, there’s a disconnect between what I’m hearing on a Sunday and what we’re living on a Monday.
Jim: Now we’re getting to it.
Kathy: I respect that. I have compassion. Busyness is the work of the devil, if I can say it that way. Can we make the choices that honor our children and honor our marriages?
Jim: Well, that’s good. That’s lie one. I’m the center of the universe. And I get that. And all of us as human beings have to fight that, not just teens and young people. Another one is I deserve to be happy all the time. And it kind of fits with the first one here. I deserve to be happy all the time is being screamed at us as a culture, especially the media. Ten ways to be happy, 10 ways to do this to be happy - explain that to us.
Kathy: Right. And let me start...
Jim: And is there a problem with it? - being happy? Is it a sin to be happy?
Kathy: That’s such a good point. So, let me say two things to start. No. It isn’t. My concern about happiness is that if they believe that they deserve to be happy all the time that’s how they make decisions, to stay happy. And we who have lived longer know that decisions for happiness will often cause the exact opposite to occur, right? And we end up maybe in a hard place, you know, if I wanted to be happy all the time I’d eat what I want and go to sleep if I want and study if I want. And oh, my goodness. My life would be very different from what it is today. So that’s part of it. I’m not - the opposite of the lie is not unhappiness, right? The other thing that I have a real concern about with this is the spiritual implications that happiness is my right because now they treat God as if it’s his job to keep them happy. Or make them happy.
Jim: And they get upset if he doesn’t.
Kathy: Absolutely. If they don’t - look at the dropout rate from church and look at the dropout rate from faith. Well, God didn’t answer my prayer the way I wanted. And so, therefore, I’ve given up on God. I hear it all the time. You guys probably do, too. They think they know - they’re the center of the universe. So, they have a right to declare what is best for them. And they should direct God rather than the other way around. And we need to do a better job in our churches and with our family devotions to make sure that they understand that God is the center and he has a right. So those are some of the introductory thoughts about happiness. They think happiness is their right because everything is now and new and about them. And you can win any game you play. And the restart button - like, I really like it. You guys do, too, right?
Kathy: If I get home to where I live and my internet is out, I can unplug it, wait 20 seconds, plug it back in and magic happens. It’s a beautiful thing. But we who have lived longer know that our hearts did not come with the reboot button. And today happened. And today causes tomorrow. And so, we have to be very alert to that and make sure that our children are understanding that joy is the possibility - right? - for Jesus followers, for Christ followers. Through a dynamic growing relationship with Jesus Christ we can have joy in all circumstances.
Jim: Well, in that context, that’s the issue of the screens because it tends to deliver a sense of enjoyment or happiness or pleasure. And that’s the addictive issue that we have. People - young people particularly going to their social media platforms, to their digital experience, to get that happiness. And they’re really unable, socially, to be graceful in a real-person situation like perhaps they should be.
Kathy: (Sighing) Oh...
Kathy: Let’s unpack that.
Kathy: Oh, that’s so true. And my heart just went out to the mom who wants to help a child find joy. You know, to a dad who would delight to connect with the son or a daughter and have joy and fun and happiness. And the kids instead are, when depressed, falling into the screen. The very thing that creates depression. And then I have to say with respect, are adults doing that? You know, do moms and dads who are concerned and overwhelmed and anxious about things that are going on, rather than finding a mentor or to have a conversation that might be hard, do they play a game instead? Do they scroll social media instead? I’ve been guilty of it. I wrote the book! And I can be guilty of not wanting to deal with some decision I have to make. So, I avoid it by going to Facebook, which is where my love factor comes in, right?
Kathy: You know, and then as soon as I X out of Facebook, if you well, guess what? The decision is still there for me to make.
Jim: That is so true, Kathy. And I want to pick up on this idea of the fear of missing out, kind of dovetails into all of this. So many young people feel like they’re - if they’re not connected, if they’re not engaged on social media that somehow, they’re missing out on all the things their friends are saying. And tomorrow, when I go to school, mom, if I don’t know what’s happening I’m going to be embarrassed. And, you know, I’ll be found out that I’m not in the know. What does a parent do to say, “Chill out. It’s OK. You don’t need to be connected all the time”? How do you go about competing with this dynamic, stimulating digital world by playing Monopoly?
Kathy: Oh, that’s so good. The first thing I would say is hear their fear and honor that. So, like, I love your heart as a dad where you would say, “It’s OK to chill out. You know, you don’t need to know everything.” The first thing I would recommend saying is, “I understand that fear, son... because I have to overcome that, too. You know, so I get it. I understand that... that those people matter to you. And that it’s probably hard to go to school and feel like you were left out of something important that happened. So, I get it. And I hear you. But we’re not changing our policies here at home. We stay off of our devices, you know, from 6 to 8 p.m. And we’re going to have family time. And if there’s something really critical that you needed to know, you can find out. You’re capable of asking questions. You know, you’ve got good friendships and things like that.” So, I want us to, you know, get it, that it’s legitimate. And we deal with it, too, probably. So, honor that. And then, maybe have a window of opportunity, maybe a 15-minute spot where they’re allowed to text. And then, can show them it didn’t radically improve their life. Right? Show them that face-to-face. Invite kids over for dinner invite their best friend over to kick the ball around in the backyard. You know, go to the park on a Saturday and let every kid invite a friend. Show them that they’re capable of what we grew up with.
Jim: Right? Create social environment that’s not digital...
Jim: ...That’s actual real people.
Kathy: We probably have to help them with that. And again it’s, not their fault. It’s their age and the brain development and the heart development because of technology. So, we can step in and parent them and say, no, we’ve lived longer. We know better than you. Let’s do this.
Jim: Kathy, at the end here - we’re going to come back next time if you’ll stay with us and we’ll continue this discussion. But at the end of day one here, I’m thinking of the parent and particularly the mom because, again, this may be that mom’s nature, kind of the characteristics of Eve. The fear and control that so many mom’s battle with internally. That mom that’s desperate right now because they’re 13, 14, 15-year-old old son or daughter - they’re looking at things they shouldn’t be looking at. They’re troubled by it. They don’t know how to control the environment. How does a parent not overreach and create such a rift in the relationship that it breaks the relationship because they’re pounding on the social media abuse so often? How does a parent really get a good grip on that with their teen?
Kathy: I think it’s very important for parents to have compassion for themselves. To understand that they did nothing wrong when buying their kids a phone. They did nothing wrong when buying their kids a mini iPad or whatever. They didn’t know what they were doing. And so, the first thing I want to say is have compassion for yourself and stop beating yourself up over things that are going on in your family that you didn’t intend to have happen. But now that you see something happening, let your love compel you. The phrase that I would use is, “I love you too much to allow this to continue. Give me your phone or give me back my phone. If I’ve paid for it, it’s mine. I love you too much. The anger that I see after you game - you know, when you game it’s aggressive and you turn it off. You’re obedient. I appreciate that, that you stop it when I ask you to stop it. But son, I’ve seen the aggression in your spirit continue for 15, 20, 30 minutes after gaming, as you interact with us and your brother. And it’s wrong. And it’s unhealthy. And it’s damaging family relations. So, I love you too much to allow this to continue. Therefore, you will no longer game Monday through Friday. Or therefore, these games that we’ve watched control you will be deleted from the system.” This is where we be... we have to be brave, and we have to say, no, I love you too much. You’re my responsibility. God’s given you to us for a period of time. And man, we’re gonna parent you well.
Jim: You know, that’s the area. And it takes courage to do it. And I’m not always on top of it. You have to be engaged. You gotta know what’s happening. And it takes time to learn it. And it’s tough. But Kathy, your book Screens and Teens is a great resource. I hope people have heard that today. I do want to come back and cover some of the lies next time, so let’s do that.
This is why Focus is here, to help you be that parent you can be and to celebrate with you in times of joy and walk alongside you in times of struggle. And we’re here. So, take advantage of it.
We have, you know, people that support the ministry in such a way that we have caring Christian counselors that can help you. We have tools and resources. And let me ask you to help support the ministry to provide this to not only your family but to other families, too.
Consider becoming a friend of “Focus on the Family.” And this special group of people provides so much of the ongoing support to the ministry by giving monthly. Jean and I support Focus in that way. And so, do you, you have your hand up, Kathy.
Kathy: I support Focus monthly. And I appreciate greatly what we get in return - the emails from you, the support that you provide for those of us who have chosen to partner with you. It means a lot.
Jim: That’s wonderful. And it’s such a stability factor for the ministry to plan the budget, plan the expenses. And when you join the team to be a monthly pledger, I want to send you a copy of Dr. Kathy Koch’s book that we book that we mentioned today. Screens and Teens or the Kirk Cameron DVD, Connect - both outstanding resources. And it’ll be our way of saying thank you for joining the team in that way.
John: And you can donate and choose which of those you’d like to receive at focusonthefamily.com/radio or call 1-800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY. 800-232-6459.
Jim: Kathy, one last question. We’re talking about the negative side the whole time. Give me, as we leave, what is that positive thing that technology brings to our kids? There’s got to be one.
Kathy: I love the - I love that they find out the world’s broken. I don’t know if you have time to unpack this. But, on one hand, you see the world broken and that’s a devastating thing, right? Like when I was a kid, we didn’t know how much danger was occurring in the world or how much poverty there was and all that. Now, with social media - and there’s news 24/7, 365 on a variety of stations, kids are aware that the world’s falling apart. That can be devastating and cause despair if they’re not believers or not being raised well. Kids with faith - they want their Esther moment at an earlier and earlier age. They want to know, “Why was I created? What problems can I solve?” And there’s questions that we can unpack for people that are in the book about even career choice and ways of volunteering according to the giftings that I have. So, I love that technology increases our awareness that we matter. And God would want us to partner with him in making this world a better place.
Jim: That’s a great place to land.
John: Well, you’re going to find encouragement, as Kathy just shared, and more in her book Screens and Teens. Again, that’s by Dr. Kathy Koch. And contact us for a copy and hit our website for further encouragement in this area of life - focusonthefamily.com/radio. On behalf of Jim Daly and the entire team, thanks for listening today. Join us next time, we’ll have more from Dr. Kathy and once again help you and your family thrive in Christ.