When Jill and her husband Mark dropped their son off at college, they quickly realized how times have changed. Almost immediately, text messages started to pour in… all reiterations of the same thing: “I want to come home.” Why? “The classes are too hard. I don’t like the subjects.” And so on and so on.
As loving parents, Jill and Mark were tempted to give in—but they held firm. “You need to stay at least one semester,” they told their son. And when they talked to the dean of students, he affirmed their decision and added an interesting and important insight: “I’m finding,” he said, “that this generation of kids does not know how to persevere.” The reason—technology convinces youth that everything should come easily.
Marshall McLuhan famously stated fifty years ago that the medium is the message. In other words, societies are shaped as much by the nature of the communication they use as the content of that communication.
And so are we. Most kids today can’t even imagine a world in which technology is not omnipresent. Computer scientist Alan Kay has said, “Technology is technology only for people who are born before it was invented.” For students these days, social media, computers, smart phones are as natural as breathing. We need to help our children navigate this brave new world of perpetual glowing rectangles.
And that’s exactly what my friend, author and researcher Kathy Koch, offers in her new book “Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World.” I do not know a more helpful book than this one in helping parents help their students navigate their culture, and I got a chance to talk with her recently on “BreakPoint This Week.” Now what I really like about Kathy’s approach is that she isn’t anti-technology; she’s pro-parent. Technology provides new opportunities for young people—if they can learn to use it wisely.
So Kathy begins her book by reminding us of the five core needs that all of us have: the first is the need for security—Who can I trust? The second, identity—Who am I? The third, belonging—Who wants me? The fourth is for purpose—Why am I alive? And the fifth, competence—What do I do well?
Now technology addresses these core needs in both positive and negative ways. At its best, technology can be a means to provide information and resources we may not have known about otherwise. At its worst, technology offers counterfeits, as if it will be omnipresent and omnipotent in meeting our deepest needs. In fact, Kathy writes, there are five lies that technology tempts us with.
One of the lies: “I am the center of my own universe.” Remember how we used to have to pick up the phone to see who was calling us? No more! We can see who’s calling and choose whether to answer. We don’t have to buy a whole album or develop a whole roll of film anymore either. As Kathy told me, kids can create their own existence. We can select our songs and our memories; we can even crop out people we don’t want in them.
Here are the other lies, and you’ll see how they’re all connected: “I deserve to be happy all the time,” “I must have choice,” “I am my own authority,” and “Information is all I need, not teachers.”
Kathy skillfully unveils—both in her book and in our BreakPoint This Week interview—just how our digital addictions can twist the worldview of our students. And frankly, as Kathy notes, we’re all susceptible to these lies, not just young people. But here’s what I love about Kathy’s work with parents—she doesn’t just point out danger, and she’s no escapist from cultural challenges. Her book is full of wisdom and practical advice on how we and our kids can navigate the world of technology without it twisting our worldview.
To listen to this interview or to get a copy of “Screens and Teens,” come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll tell you how. Your teen will thank you.
BreakPoint is a Christian worldview ministry that seeks to build and resource a movement of Christians committed to living and defending Christian worldview in all areas of life. Begun by Chuck Colson in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends via radio, interactive media, and print. Today BreakPoint commentaries, co-hosted by Eric Metaxas and John Stonestreet, air daily on more than 1,200 outlets with an estimated weekly listening audience of eight million people. Feel free to contact us at BreakPoint.org where you can read and search answers to common questions.
John Stonestreet, the host of The Point, a daily national radio program, provides thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.
Publication date: March 18, 2015