Technology is one of those interesting, confounding, and paradoxical things in our society. Some love it; others hate it. Some credit it with all of the success of our society; others blame it for all of our problems. Some want more of it; others want to get rid of as much as possible.
No matter where you are in this spectrum of thought on technology, one thing is likely true of you — Technology either has or is currently seeking to overtake every area of your life. While some (perhaps many) are quite okay with this, others are not, and rightfully so. I am one such person. I find myself in the constant ebb and flow of figuring out technology’s proper place in my life. Even right now, I am typing on a MacBook, wearing an Apple Watch, with an iPhone laying within arm’s reach. How much is too much, and how far is too far? These are the questions that we must continually ask ourselves.
We must not only ask these questions of ourselves individually, but of our families collectively, especially if we have children. How do we ensure that technology is in its proper place in our family’s life. One thing I can pretty much guarantee is this — If you are not asking this question or thinking through these issues, odds are that technology is not in its proper place in your family.
A New Book
In order to help individuals and families work through these issues, Andy Crouch has written a very helpful new book — The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Crouch is the executive editor of Christianity Today, and the author of many books and articles. In his own words, Crouch says that, “This book is about how to find the proper place for technology in our family lives — and how to keep it there” (16).
Unfortunately, doing so takes much discernment and wisdom. There is no simple formula for putting technology in its proper place, and each family is going to be unique and different. With that said, Crouch does hope to offer some general principles, guidelines, and thoughts that will enable each family to make wise decisions.
Crouch offers “Ten Commitments” in the book — each one comprising a chapter — that he says will enable a family to approach technology with a wise, healthy, and disciplined outlook. Below are these Ten Commitments:
- We develop wisdom and courage together as a family
- We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement
- We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together
- We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do
- We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home
- We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone
- Car time is conversation time
- Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices
- We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship
- We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being full present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms
The first three commitments, and thus the first three chapters, are choices that are especially fundamental — choosing character, shaping space, and structuring time. He says in this section:
“We will have to teach our children, from early on, that we are not here as parents to make their lives easier but to make them better. We will tell them — and show them — that nothing matters more to our family than creating a home where all of us can be known, loved, and called to grow. And then we’ll have to make hard choices — sometimes radical choices — to use technology in a very different way from people around us” (69).
The next five commitments comprise the second part of the book, and these look at some “nudges and disciplines we can put in place every day to have a healthier life with technology, from the moment we wake up until the end of the day” (39).
Finally, the last two chapters look at the two biggest tasks we were made for: to worship God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to care and love for one another.
The book is filled throughout with colorful visuals and graphics, comprised of some of the latest research done by Barna, intended to highlight and undergird many of the arguments in the book.
Another helpful feature of the book comes at the end of each chapter — the “Crouch Family Reality Check.” In this section at the end of each chapter, Crouch offers a paragraph or two of honest self-reflection in how well (or poorly) his family has kept to each commitment. I think it is easy for us to read this book and feel like total failures because we don’t do these things, or don’t do them perfectly. That is certainly not the intent of this book. Rather, the author is helping us, as the readers, think biblically and wisely about a multitude of aspects of technology use in our life, our family, and our home — all the while recognizing and admitting that he himself is far from perfect in this endeavor. This is a refreshing and encouraging reminder to me — to know that though I am striving to continually put technology in its proper place in a better way, I am not perfect, and nor is this author.
How have you and your family done in putting technology in its proper place? Have you ever asked yourself this question? If not, you need to. Our world is flooded with technology, and its certainly not going to slow down any time soon. If you and I are going to approach technology in a wise and biblical way, we need to be willing and eager to sit down, take a step back, and analyze our lives and our technology usage. Though this can be (and probably will be) an excruciatingly painful process, it is a necessary one. This new book will be a great tool to help you and your family ask the questions that need to be asked and take steps forward to being a tech-wise family.
Andy Crouch ends the book with these powerful, insightful, and challenging words:
“We are meant to build this kind of life together: the kind of life that, at the end, is completely dependent upon one another; the kind of life that ultimately transcends, and does not need, the easy solutions of technology because it is caught up in something more true and more lasting than any alchemy our technological world can invent. We are meant to be family — not just marriages bound by vows and the children that come from them, but a wider family that invites others into our lives and even to the threshold of our very last breath, to experience vulnerability and grace, sorrow and hope, singing our way homeward. We are meant not just for thin, virtual connections but for visceral, real connections to one another in this fleeting, temporary, and infinitely beautiful and worthwhile life. We are meant to die in one another’s arms, surrounded by prayer and song, knowing beyond knowing that we are loved.
We are meant for so much more than technology can ever give us — above all, for the wisdom and courage that it will never give us. We are meant to spur one another along on the way to a better life, the life that really is life.
Why not begin living that life, together, now?” (204-205).
In accordance with FTC regulations, I would like to thank Baker Books for providing me with a review copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review.