Help kids reject high-tech lies

ImageWhat are kids learning from the high-tech world they’re growing up in? Lots of fascinating stuff, of course. But child development guru Dr. Kathy Koch ( has also identified lies or “misbeliefs” that Generation Y (aka the Millennials) are absorbing.

Unless these lies are gently refuted by wise and discerning adults, children are in for a long, hard journey. Tragically, the slog is sometimes cut short. According to Dr. Koch, suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among 11-19 year olds. We must help kids re-interpret these false messages:

Misbelief #1: “The world revolves around me.” We’re all susceptible to this lie, but young people are particularly vulnerable. Everywhere they look, from targeted TV advertising, to customized banner ads, to personalized gear and accessories, it’s all about them. They desperately need a Galileo moment.

Misbelief #2: “I deserve to be happy all the time.” With movies and games that follow them from setting to setting and device to device, kids approach unhappiness like a global injustice. But they don’t need happiness. They need joy and contentment. Here’s the simple truth: What you’re in will bring you short-term happiness; what’s in you will bring you long-term joy.

Misbelief #3: “I must have choices.” No, you don’t, little one. You can adapt to what we’re doing. But tired parents (e.g., this author) often find it easier to give choices and make compromises to avoid fights. Many twenty-somethings are living at home because they can’t make big decisions that would limit their choices.

“You don’t have to turn ground beef into tacos, hamburgers and meat loaf,” Dr. Koch says. “Make meat loaf and let them go to bed hungry if they choose! Life doesn’t come with drop-down menus.”

Misbelief #4: “I need what I want when I want it.” Endless information and constant communication make the lust for instant gratification stronger. Kids are impatient, argumentative and demanding. It’s not necessarily their fault; it’s their culture. We need to teach the difference between needs and wants.

Misbelief #5: “Everything should be easy for me and I should always win.” The “participation trophy” generation has trouble (a) working hard to win and (b) losing graciously. There’s always been a manual for how to beat the video game. You get to “play again” until you succeed. Not in real life. Weak work ethic plus strong entitlement equals difficulty in life and relationships.

Misbelief #6: “Boredom is my enemy so I must multitask.” Dr. Koch says we’re “not so much multi-tasking as semi-tasking.” If kids are constantly entertained away from boredom, they’ll never discover what really lights their fire. Boredom sparks interest. An engaging parent can then fan the flame of passion.

Misbelief #7: “My friends determine who I am and who I will be.” Pleasing people online is so tempting because feedback is instant and widespread. “Friends” like or not like, thumbs up or thumbs down, tweet positively or negatively as soon as you say or do anything.

Therefore, young people will often say things polar opposite from what they said a short time before. Who they are is very much dependent on who they’re with. Dr. Koch calls this dangerous tendency “liquid identity.”

Misbelief #8: “Self-evaluation is unnecessary. Others will tell me how I’m doing.” Immediate and objective feedback from authoritative sources can be a powerful tool for growth. A teenager’s Facebook feedback may be instant, but it’s rarely objective or authoritative.

If we help kids review their own work and behavior objectively, then they can catch their own mistakes before major consequences arise. They won’t flap in the winds of socially mediated whims.

Misbelief #9: “I can solve most problems by ‘rebooting.’” My 10-year-old did this recently when he couldn’t get a DVD player to work. Whenever I make a physical (vs. digital) mistake, I’ll subconsciously reach for the “undo” key in my mind before I realize no such button exists.

Teens and twenty-somethings change jobs, romances, locales and lifestyles more often than previous generations. They are trying to auto-correct and Photo-shop life. Life doesn’t work that way. Behaviors have real consequences.

Misbelief #10: “I am my own teacher because I can find the information I need.” Young people feel powerful because of the data at their fingertips. They perceive non-techie parents and grandparents as clueless and out of touch.

But there is a difference between knowledge and wisdom, between information and understanding. Older generations shouldn’t abdicate their authority to train and guide younger generations, no matter how much data the whippersnappers may have.


More generations are alive today than ever before. Older generations have friendships, business relationships and marriages based on a commonality of beliefs. They have “belief-based relationships.”

Millennials have “relationship-based beliefs.” They believe things based on the people they’re around. That’s why they feel no dissonance about having one opinion around one group and another opinion around a different group.

This doesn’t mean they don’t have values. The Internet has shown them how broken the world is. They desperately want to improve it. They are innovative, entrepreneurial and creative in their approaches. Dr. Koch says if we help them discern their passion, if we give them a purpose, they will live through the heartache they see in the world around them.

Specifically, how do we enter into relationship with them? Dr. Koch recommends two simple steps: Have (1) digital-free days and (2) digital-free zones (e.g., the car). Kids will enter them kicking and screaming, but they will emerge thrilled by how exciting checkers can be with a parent of undivided attention.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at

5 Responses to “Help kids reject high-tech lies”

  1. 1 mattd October 7, 2013 at 07:29

    Kevin,  Outstanding. I sent it to my “parent list”. Matt

    Sent from my Galaxy S®III

  2. 2 jessestroup October 7, 2013 at 11:01

    Kevin,  Another very good one.  Thanks for using your talents this way.  I will forward this to Costas Cafcalas our Greek friend in MI whose son is a school counselor. With appreciation, Jesse

      Jesse R. Stroup Director of Spiritual Care Lifeline Chaplaincy 511 N. Akard suite 202 Dallas, TX 75201


  3. 3 R G Rampy October 8, 2013 at 10:26

    Brilliance. I look forward to sharing these astute observations with my kids. And yes, we need to play more board games! This weekend, I promise.

  4. 4 Grant Rampy October 8, 2013 at 10:34

    As I wrote in the ‘comments’ section of your blog: This one is a real gift. I’ll have a long discussion with my kids this weekend about the points you make then we’ll play a board game. 🙂

    And, though I know I’ve said it before… Thank you for the work you put into your insightful columns. These are messages the world needs to hear.


    Grant Rampy | Director of Public Relations* Abilene Christian University | University Marketing 218 Zellner Hall | ACU Box 29010 | Abilene, TX 79699 (ofc) 325.674.2692 | (cell) 325.660.8690

    *Read and watchmore about ACU *

    *Also, check out our Wildcat Video Minute * *for October Join us for Homecoming 2013!*


    On Sun, Oct 6, 2013 at 9:48 PM, Kevin Thomps

  5. 5 Jaime Sanderson October 8, 2013 at 15:20

    Great article, Kevin! We have started to be more intentional about leaving the technology behind. It has made a HUGE positive difference in our family. Thanks for sharing all of this great info. So shocked to read about the high suicide rate among 11-19 year olds. Tragic!!!

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