An Interview with Dr. Kathy Koch
I was first introduced to Dr. Kathy Koch when I heard her speak on the topic of “Teens, the Screen, and Your Family” at the Axis Parenting Teens Summit. As I listened to her share difficult truths and practical, common sense solutions, I knew she was someone who would be a valuable resource for families. Several months later, I was overjoyed to learned that not only was I going to have the opportunity to hear her speak in person, but that she was also going to be kind and generous enough to sit down with me for an interview.
Dr. Koch is the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., which is based in Fort Worth. She is also a highly sought-after keynote speaker and a popular guest on Focus on the Family Radio. She has touched the hearts and lives of people in more than 30 countries through her speaking engagements and other events.
Dr. Koch was only recently allowed to share the fact that she is going to be one of the featured experts in Kirk Cameron’s upcoming movie Kirk Cameron: CONNECT. When I asked her how she became involved with the movie, she shared the fact that it was actually one of her appearances on Focus on the Family Radio that got the attention of the film’s director.
Just a short time after being on the radio program, she received an email from the director saying that Kirk Cameron wanted to speak with her. Though she felt that the email was likely a joke or a scam, she decided to reply and found out Kirk Cameron did in fact want to speak with her about being part of the movie because of her pro-technology stance and the research she has done about the influence technology has on teen behavior.
The Five Lies and Technology
Though Dr. Koch has been a leading expert in the areas of parenting and education for quite some time, her interest in technology has developed more recently. When I asked her what first influenced her to become so focused on the subject of technology, she stated, “It was because good kids with good families began to behave badly.”
As more and more parents began repeatedly asking Dr. Koch what they were doing wrong because their children were becoming more argumentative, selfish, impatient, and dissatisfied with life in general, she became determined to find out what beliefs might be influencing the behaviors. As a result, she teamed up with mentor Scott Degraffenreid to try to find an underlying cause for the dramatic shift in behavior parents were noticing.
Dr. Koch was able to take her knowledge about the core needs of teens and combine it with the information she learned about how technology was affecting that same age group to develop a list of 28 lies she believed technology was teaching them. Dr. Koch later narrowed the original list of 28 lies down to 5, and that became the basis for her popular book Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World, which helps parents navigate setting healthy boundaries with technology while still finding meaningful ways to connect as a family.
Lesser Known Dangers
Most parents are aware of some of the more obvious dangers related to technology like cyberbullying, exposure to pornography, and the risk of coming in contact with pedophiles. However, there are other danger many parents never even consider. When I asked Dr. Koch what lesser known dangers parents should be aware of, she explained that technology can lead teens to believe 5 lies that have the ability to influence their behavior. These lies include:
- I am the center of my own universe.
- I deserve to be happy all the time.
- I must have choices.
- I am my own authority.
- Information is all I need so I don’t need teachers.
All 5 of these lies are covered in great detail in Screens and Teens: Connecting with Our Kids in a Wireless World, which is a book I believe every parent should read.
There is one question I am asked more than any other, so I had to get Dr. Koch’s take on it. When I asked her what the optimal age is for a young person to get their first smartphone, she replied, “When it becomes necessary.” She did add the caveat that just because a phone might be needed due to extracurricular practice schedules, that doesn’t mean the phone needs to have internet service, social media, etc. She also emphasized the fact that a simple flip phone would meet that need.
Digital Free Zones and Days
When I asked if there were any general ground rules she believed all parents should set with their teens regarding the use of technology, Dr. Koch suggested establishing digital free zones and days. She defined digital free as meaning no television, radio, computers, phones, or other technology because the idea is to be fully present. Her top picks for digital free zones include dinner tables, vehicles, and bedrooms.
One of Dr. Koch’s favorite saying is that boundaries are blessings. In fact, she likes to joke that without boundaries, Niagara Falls would just be one big puddle. When I asked her if there were any pitfalls parents should avoid when setting boundaries for their teens regarding the use of technology, she emphasized the fact that what is expected of the teen should also be expected of the parents. She also recommended using we statements as opposed to you statements when establishing boundaries.
Though Dr. Koch had no way of knowing that her work in the area of technology would eventually lead to her adding a movie appearance to her already long list of accomplishments, her background, practical advice, and pro-technology position all combined to make her a perfect fit for Kirk Cameron’s upcoming movie. When I asked what she hopes the biggest takeaway from movie will be, she replied, “The title of the movie is Connect. I want parents to be reminded of the value of the deep connecting they should be experiencing with their children. I want families to reconnect with one another. I also want parents to realize that this is about heart transformation and not behavior management.”
Kirk Cameron: CONNECT will be showing in selected theaters February 27th and March 1st.