By Jeff Mingee
If your children wrote a book about your family’s digital habits, what would they write? Andy Crouch, author of The Tech-Wise Family, doesn’t have to imagine the answer. His daughter, Amy Crouch, wrote My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices (Baker, 2020) as a reflection on her experience growing up in the Crouch household with an intentional approach to technology.
She is refreshingly open and honest about her own life experience and her developing convictions about the place of technology in human flourishing as she understands it. She offers the reader a autobiographical look into the family that practiced the principles laid out in Andy Crouch’s popular book. One of the most touching aspects of this book are the letters from a father to his daughter between each chapter in which Andy Crouch reflects on his memories and interacts with his daughter’s writing.
But My Tech-Wise Life is not merely a story about Amy. It’s an invitation to think critically about the reader’s own use of technology. She weaves insights from Barna Research throughout the book, including helpfully diagrammed graphs and images, providing data and research. This book balances data and descriptive elements as it encourages and equips readers to live tech-wise.
Summary of My Tech-Wise Life
Crouch begins with a section that sets the tone for the rest of the book; she introduces basic statistics, such as “84 percent of American teenagers have their own smartphone” (12), and she introduces the personal tone of the book, writing that, “half of us admit we’re more distracted because of technology—and more likely to put off or procrastinate on homework” (13). She introduces the background and lingo of ‘tech-wise’ and warns the reader, “It’s hard to be tech-wise, because it’s hard to be wise” (16).
In chapter one Crouch addresses how technology can encourage us to compare ourselves to others. She reveals, “Just over a quarter of Americans ages thirteen to twenty-one (27 percent) admit that when we post online, we’re sometimes tempted to make things up to make ourselves seem more exciting or interesting. And for 44 percent of us, seeing other people’s posts makes us feel like our lives don’t match up—like our friends’ lives are better than ours” (25). In chapter two Crouch recognizes the potential for distraction provided by technology. She writes, “Our devices don’t encourage one-time, moderate distractions. Rather, they encourage a posture of distraction” (45, emphasis in original). Moving beyond identifying problems or potential problems, Crouch offers practical advice:
I’ve found a few helpful guidelines for keeping distraction under control. The first is painfully easy: out of sight, out of mind. […] when it comes to distraction, I need to assume I have no willpower. (52)
Crouch notes in chapter three that our devices don’t have to lead us to disconnect from others, but we must be careful in our use. In chapter four she recognizes the temptation to hide both serious sins and smaller bad habits with our tech.
“We’re not always hiding scandals with our technology. Often we’re just concealing the mundane foibles that are an unavoidable frustration of humanity. But we need to pay attention to the thighs we hide, even if we tell ourselves they’re not that serious” (106).
Crouch then points out in chapter five the temptation to lie online in order to be more liked. She explains, “But as I’ve started to figure out my relationship with technology, I’ve realized that I flourish most when sharing is a side effect, not a purpose” (127).
In chapter six she responds to the habit of avoiding boredom by binge watching entertainment. She writes, “The cure for boredom is not distraction. It’s wonder” (145). She then invites readers to look up from their screens to enjoy the beauty of nature and of other people:
Tech promised to distract me from my boredom. But it was these simple activities that took me beyond distraction. I didn’t need my phone to escape, because the tech-wise life plunged me deep into wonder. (153)
In chapter seven, addressing the danger of looking at screens when we should be sleeping, Crouch warns, “Technology is really good at distracting us, but it’s not great at restoring us” (174). She concludes with the simple but powerful invitation that tech users can live in hope.
An Invitation to a Tech-Wise Life
Technology continues to play an important role in our lives, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Quarantines are an opportunity for binge watching. Schools are now happening on digital devices. Banking is online. We live in a tech-filled world, but are we tech-wise? Amy Crouch invites us in to her own experience of a tech-wise life. It’s an invitation that we would do well to heed and learn from. Readers will find this book easy to read, informative with data based research, and compelling examples and practical pointers on how to live a tech-wise life.