Our world has rapidly changed. When I left for college the iPhone did not exist, and the Motorola Razr was all the rage. Facebook was a new way for college students to connect, and although laptops were becoming more common, I brought my brand new DELL desktop and proudly set it up in my dorm room.
A little over a decade later, smartphones are everywhere, and both adults and children are trying to navigate how they can use technology wisely. This summer I have spent many afternoons in conversations with friends and family members who are trying to figure out how to raise children in a technologically savvy world, and never before have I been more thankful for a book in its timing and wisdom.
The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology In Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch (Baker, 2017) is a short, easy read that gives families wise counsel on how to use technology. This small book is full of research from the Barna Group, and the graphics and data prove to be extremely beneficial in aiding Crouch’s message of putting and keeping technology in its proper place in the home. And Crouch supplements the research and statistics with many personal stories from his own family’s technological journey.
Summary of The Tech-Wise Family
The book is broken into three sections, although the forward, preface and introduction are just as important because they lay the groundwork for the information Crouch shares in the upcoming chapters. For example, Crouch lists the Tech-Wise Commandments in the introduction. He later fleshes these commandments out in each chapter, but those two pages were some of the most helpful conversation starters for our family. When referencing this book in the future, the Tech-Wise Commandments will likely be the first pages I turn to.
The first section of the book gives the family unit three key action steps in creating a “tech-wise family.” First, families can choose character by developing wisdom and courage together as a family. Second, they can shape spaces within the home for creativity; this helps a family create more than consume. Third, we can structure time so that we use our resources to develop a rhythm of work and rest. He connects these three concepts to technology by giving tangible steps such as turning off devices at least “one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year so that their family can worship, feast, play, and rest together” (83).
The second section of the book delves into daily aspects of life such as making sure that we use our devices to benefit our lives, rather than allowing our devices to dictate our lives. He writes about how his family chooses to use car time for conversation rather than using devices for distraction, how within their family there is no secrecy on devices (spouses have access to each other’s passwords, and parents have access to children’s devices/apps) and how we use technology intentionally in community rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
The final section reads more like an extension to the second and addresses how technology can aide and distract us from what matters most. Crouch argues, “We show up in person for the big events of life. We learn how to be human by being fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability” (197). He discusses how technology has blessed us with the ability to see family and friends via FaceTime and Skype, and yet even “the highest quality Skype connection is not enough for the really important moments in a human life” (198). These final chapters address how to show up and love people well through worship and simply being truly present for our loved ones.
Review and Conclusion
Although this book is specifically written for families, I still recommend it for unmarried adults. The content is both applicable and beneficial for our entire church family, not merely our biological ones. The big ideas — the Tech-Wise Commandments — might not be as easily applied to individuals, but you can discuss and live them out in the context of Christian community. In fact, I would love to see Crouch expand on this work to produce a resource with the greater Family in mind. For example, how would these principles guide widows, unmarried, divorced and others beyond the typical family framework?
If you are looking for a resource on screen-time limits, filters and which apps your children should avoid, this book will not fulfill your wishes. Technology is ever-changing, as are additional resources that help us use technology well. Rather, Crouch gives us a timeless approach to using wisdom as a guide in putting all technology in its proper place. Some of Crouch’s applications might not work for your family, but most of the ideas that drive his applications will. Thus I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a follower of Christ and has a smart phone, tablet, or computer in their home.
Overall, The Tech-Wise Family is an excellent and timely resource. “Technology is only very good if it can help us become the persons we were meant to be,” Crouch writes (63), and this book is a great start to a much-needed conversation on how we can become persons and families that value wisdom and godliness over ease and instant gratification.