Today's blog post is written by Mr. Ian Thomas, a member of the secondary Bible faculty.
When was the last time you seriously evaluated the role and impact that technology has on your life? If I am honest, as I have grown older it has been an increasing challenge for me to maintain a healthy use of technology and devices. The first iPhone was released when I was in high school. In many ways, I was maturing into adulthood at the very same time that this little device began to revolutionize the cultural air that we breathe. The ubiquity of technology in our world today is impossible to ignore and would have been unthinkable just a decade ago. Imagine being somewhere right now without free and instantaneous access to Wi-Fi! Technology feels almost omnipresent in our lives, allowing us to go about our days and our responsibilities with seemingly greater ease and effectiveness than generations who have come before. But all of this does beg the question: Is all of this actually good for us as human beings?
Andy Crouch has written a compelling book on this topic, entitled The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place (Baker, 2017). For the record- I would recommend every book Andy Crouch has released; he is a wise and unique thinker who is a blessing to the church today. I found this particular work extremely timely and helpful, however. The Tech-Wise Family is aimed at parents, in particular, urging them to think carefully about the role that technology has in the home. He notes, “nearly eight in ten parents believe that they have a more complicated job in raising their kids today than their parents did raising them. Monitoring technology usage tops the list of what they perceive contributes to this difficulty” (p. 39). Being in the classroom with high school students every day has certainly revealed to me the complexity that comes with the digital age we currently inhabit and the unique challenges involved with parenting in this generation.
Before Crouch discusses technology specifically, however, he begins by redefining the purpose of the family and the home. He contends that the mission of the family is the formation of persons who develop and cultivate wisdom and courage. He then analyzes how to put technology in its “proper place” in light of this mission and purpose. At the heart of the book, Crouch works through 10 commitments (what he also calls “nudges” or “disciplines”) that he and his family have made in their own home. It is important to note that these commitments are not a legalistic guide on how to keep your child safe from dangerous things online. Nor are they meant to vilify technology with a push to rid ourselves of all our devices and to return to the “good ole days,” akin to something closer to Little House on the Prairie than our modern world of Siri, Netflix, and Amazon Prime. And most of them are not “plug and play” commitments that you can immediately implement in your own home.
Rather, these commitments are about reclaiming the purpose of our families and setting a healthy trajectory and direction for how technology will find its proper place in our homes. As a preview, here are some of the commitments:
- 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 wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
- We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
- Car time is conversation time.
Overall, reading this book felt like a breath of fresh air. In many ways, it challenged and humbled me as I evaluated all of the ways that I miss it with the devices that are seemingly always on and literally attached to me throughout the day. More helpfully, Crouch rightly analyzes the effect all of this is having on us as human beings, and envisions a way that technology can be used as a blessing and a tool in our lives while not becoming an all-consuming god that tends to distract us and addict us to constantly check the newest notification buzzing in our pockets. Though I fall short of many of the commitments mentioned in this book, at no point in time is Crouch out for a guilt-trip. Indeed, one of the most refreshing parts of the book is the “Crouch Family Reality Checks” that show up at end of each chapter, painting a realistic picture of how this has gone for the author and his family.
The Tech-Wise Family has spurred me on to have important conversations with my wife about the role of technology in our home, and to begin to make some healthy adjustments in regards to my phone usage and time spent in front of glowing rectangles throughout my day. As a new parent, it has helped to give me a framework for the role we desire technology to have in the life of our son. I would ask you to consider reading this book as a family together this summer and to begin to have the important conversation about whether or not technology is in the “proper place” in your home. I think you will find it challenging and refreshing, and at times, it will take you to unexpected topics that will undoubtedly enrich your life together as a family.
Watch Andy Crouch discuss The Tech-Wise Family: