The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place

Making conscientious choices about technology in our families is more than just using internet filters and determining screen time limits for our children. It's about developing wisdom, character, and courage in the way we use digital media rather than accepting technology's promises of ease, instant gratification, and the world's knowledge at our fingertips. And it's defi...

Title:The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:0801018668
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Hardcover
Number of Pages:224 pages

The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place Reviews

  • Ivan
    Mar 26, 2017

    I didn't expect a book dealing with everyday use of technology would be so encouraging, so beautifully written, and so deeply moving. But it's Andy Crouch, so there's that.

  • Rachel Davidson Schmoyer
    May 22, 2017

    It’s tough to know how to parent when there are so many technological devices around. We can’t really look back to see how our parents did it or how generations before us handled iPhones and tablets and internet. In our house, my technology parenting questions are mostly a result of my son creating a YouTube channel and animating with Flash. Of course, he also wants to spend a lot of time watching and listening to things online. My girls like to watch things and play Minecraft or Prodigy or sear

    It’s tough to know how to parent when there are so many technological devices around. We can’t really look back to see how our parents did it or how generations before us handled iPhones and tablets and internet. In our house, my technology parenting questions are mostly a result of my son creating a YouTube channel and animating with Flash. Of course, he also wants to spend a lot of time watching and listening to things online. My girls like to watch things and play Minecraft or Prodigy or search for crafts on Pinterest. So I am always left with questions like:

    • Once my son’s screen time is completed, is it okay for his to listen to music on YouTube with the window minimized? Or is that just for screen time?

    • Should I give him as much time on the computer as his sisters get? Or should he get more so he has time to create?

    • What should I do when I give each girl an hour of screen time and they stack it and plan it so they all get to watch 3 hours of screen time? Should I prevent them from doing that? Or is it good that they problem solved and planned together?

    When I saw The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch, I was hoping the author would have some simple answers for me. Like, exactly how much time should a 12-year-old spend in front of a screen each day? Unfortunately, I didn’t get any easy answers. What I did get was something better. Andy Crouch gave 10 Tech-Wise Commitments and plenty of other thoughts to mull over about how I approach and view technology not only for my kids but for my life as well.

    Here are the thoughts that especially caught my attention:

    • He uses a broad definition of technology. When I use the word “technology,” I am generally referring to a computer or TV screen used for mostly entertainment. But The Tech-Wise Family defines technology as anything that makes life easy or everywhere like electric lights, refrigerators, and cars in addition to all the amazing technological advancements in the computer age. I appreciated this and it made me feel connected to parents of the past who had to parent through new technologies. They just weren’t the same inventions that I have to navigate through. Can you imagine being a parent during the time cars were first invented? Talk about some major parenting and technology decisions! That makes navigating my kid’s Kindles seem easy!

    • Technology is not bad. I find myself as a parent fighting against technology so much that I’ve begun to see it as bad. But Andy Crouch reminds me that it’s not bad. It’s neutral. Yes, it is often distracting and displaces our real work. He says our real work is to “become persons of wisdom and courage.” He also encourages us “to create and cultivate.” Technology is neutral in this. It can help us or prevent us from wisdom, courage, creation, and cultivation. It depends how we are using it. I really appreciated this thought when it came to how I view my son’s time on the computer when he is animating. I used to look at him while he was doing it thinking about how I can get him off. Now, especially after I saw some of his little cartoons, I see that he is creating when he is animating. In this case, the technology is helping him become a person who creates. Now when my daughter says “that’s not fair, I should be able to watch Netflix for as long as he animates”…ummm….no. And usually when I say no, she pouts for a minute and then goes and rides her bike or plays outside or asks to help cook. And she is much happier because of it.

    Andy Crouch says the question is: “Does this use of technology make me the kind of human being who could contribute lasting value to my family, my neighbors, my society, and our broken world?” A great question! And not just for the kids.

    • Arrange your home to encourage creating, skill, and active engagement. He challenged us to look around our living room. What do we have available in these common spaces to encourage us towards wisdom and courage? Are there books? Musical instruments? Art supplies? What is in the room that distracts us from those goals? Get rid of the distractions (put them out of the room or out of sight) and purposefully bring in what encourages us.

    • Technology has changed work into toil and rest into leisure. I appreciated the way he defined these terms. He also readily admitted that you may not be able to change the nature of your 9-to-5 toil into work, but you can take the opportunity to rest when you can and realize that mindlessly scrolling through Facebook is not rest. How much of my free time do I spend resting and how much do I cram it with leisure? He says “we simply have to turn off the easy fixes and make media something we use on purpose and rarely rather than aimlessly and frequently.”

    I highly recommend The Tech-Wise Family. Most of the time I was reading this book, I forgot that it was a parenting book. I think that any person living today that uses any kind of technology would benefit from the book.

    It’s an easy read and conversational. I also appreciated the reality check at the end of each chapter where Andy Crouch let us know how easy or hard that particular principle was to apply to his own family. That gave the whole book a “we are all in this together” feel knowing the author is working on these principles, too.

    rachelschmoyerwrites.com

  • Laura
    Apr 22, 2017

    This is a very insightful book, filled with wisdom and practical applications about technology in the home, from a Christian perspective.

    Andy Crouch is clear from the beginning that technology itself is not "bad." It can make our lives richer and more efficient, if used correctly. But if not used in moderation, it provides an "easy everywhere" escape that can lead us to neglect the important people and tasks in our lives, short-changing us all. He uses some current research from Barna (included

    This is a very insightful book, filled with wisdom and practical applications about technology in the home, from a Christian perspective.

    Andy Crouch is clear from the beginning that technology itself is not "bad." It can make our lives richer and more efficient, if used correctly. But if not used in moderation, it provides an "easy everywhere" escape that can lead us to neglect the important people and tasks in our lives, short-changing us all. He uses some current research from Barna (included in this book with several pie charts and other graphs in each chapter) and gives us ten basic principles that he and his family have tried to live by (not perfectly--he is quite honest about the places they've fallen short as well), and why.

    It's the "why" that I think is very valuable here, because guides like this could so easily fall into legalism, or present "formulas" to simply force us to act in a certain way, but without something deeper and more powerful guiding us, simple behavior modification is not enough. Crouch says that one of the main purposes of a family is to teach wisdom and courage, and this is his first principle.

    Others include:

    "We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement."

    This one I thought was very valuable, and it approaches "technology in moderation" from a positive perspective, focusing on developing something, rather than just cutting back on something else. He encourages families to keep musical instruments on hand--even grand pianos in their living room if they have the space and money! One of the big problems with TV and other "devices" is that they tend to reward passivity. Children (and adults) need to engage with art, cooking, music, reading, and other things that engage our whole selves.

    Principle three covers the idea of a "Sabbath rest" for ourselves, but also for our devices. We have to know how to unplug and be willing to do it on a regular basis. I thought his contrast between "work and rest" vs. "labor and toil" was interesting.

    Principle four, which I thought was one of the most valuable, says that "We wake up before our devices do, and they 'go to bed' before we do." He encourages families to make their bedrooms into screen-free zones, and to not allow their phones to be the first thing they go for in the morning as well as the last thing they see before closing their eyes. Machines do not need rest, but we do, because we are not machines.

    Another principle aims for "no screens before the age of ten" for children, which may not be very practical in families with more than one or two children, but still emphasizes, without legalism, the importance of giving children a childhood that will enrich them, engage them, build their brains, introduce them to nature, rather than bewitching them with glowing screens. I couldn't agree more.

    Other principles involve being willing to sing and making our own music rather than simply "consuming" what others play, and not automatically turning to a device the entire time we're traveling, or waiting, or in a "pause" between one thing and another.

    Principle eight deals with pornography, which is a concern of many parents. Crouch says filtering is a good idea, but shouldn't be all we do. Here's how he puts it:

    "All addictions feed on, and are strengthened by, emptiness. When our lives are empty of relationships, porn's relationship-free vision of sex rushes in to fill the void. When our lives are empty of meaning, porn dangles before us a sense of purpose and possibility. When our lives have few deep satisfactions, porn at least promises pleasure and release. Nearly half of teenagers who use porn, according to Barna's research, say they do so out of boredom...

    "So the best defense against porn, for every member of our family, is a full life--the kind of life that technology cannot provide on its own. This is why the most important things we will do to prevent porn from taking over our own lives and our children's lives have nothing to do with sex. A home where wisdom and courage come first; where our central spaces are full of satisfying, demanding opportunities for creativity; where we have regular breaks from technology and opportunities for deep rest and refreshment (where devices "sleep" somewhere other than our bedrooms and where both adults and children experience the satisfactions of learning in thick, embodied ways rather than thin, technological ways); where we've learned to manage boredom and where even our car trips are occasions for deep and meaningful conversation--this is the kind of home that can equip all of us with an immune system strong enough to resist pornography's foolishness. ..."

    This book is not a long read, but is pretty concise, and has given me a lot to consider, both in the ways we are already incorporating some of these principles, but also in the ways we might need to adjust our thinking. Definitely recommended for Christian families who use technology (which is just about all of us!)

    Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers

    program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255

    ….

  • Jessie Wittman
    May 05, 2017

    Please let me recommend this small read to you! Small, but surprisingly rich. I opened it looking for practical ways to handle technology in my home, and I got that (each chapter contains one of ten "commitments" concerning tech), but I was both heart-warmed and gut-punched by the writer's vision of embodied life. The content of this book was like reading Wendell Berry, G.K. Chesterton, and Charlotte Mason all smashed up together on the topic of tech. His writing is economic and lovely.

    I want t

    Please let me recommend this small read to you! Small, but surprisingly rich. I opened it looking for practical ways to handle technology in my home, and I got that (each chapter contains one of ten "commitments" concerning tech), but I was both heart-warmed and gut-punched by the writer's vision of embodied life. The content of this book was like reading Wendell Berry, G.K. Chesterton, and Charlotte Mason all smashed up together on the topic of tech. His writing is economic and lovely.

    I want to be tech-wise.

  • Jeff Skipper
    May 19, 2017

    Where do I begin? This is the best, most practical book I've read so far in 2017. It's a short, easy read, too. I can't recommend it enough. Deep down I've wanted to make some changes & lead my family better in this area, but have lacked the self-discipline, courage, & direction. Thankfully, this book came along and has pushed me where I've wanted to go. We've already started to implement some of these changes in our home ("shaping the space", as Crouch calls it-- pushing the tech to the

    Where do I begin? This is the best, most practical book I've read so far in 2017. It's a short, easy read, too. I can't recommend it enough. Deep down I've wanted to make some changes & lead my family better in this area, but have lacked the self-discipline, courage, & direction. Thankfully, this book came along and has pushed me where I've wanted to go. We've already started to implement some of these changes in our home ("shaping the space", as Crouch calls it-- pushing the tech to the edges). Yes, the kids will notice and initially react; so will visiting friends & family members; even you may be hesitant to make these changes. But within days it's brought a new level of peace to our home, and my kids are being so much more creative! Because they're engaged with their hands & minds, they're not even asking for tv's and tablets. Also a lot of good, practical advice & challenges for us adults. Can't wait to skim through this again. It's not an overstatement to say that this book can change your life.

  • Mark Jr.
    Jun 10, 2017

    Andy Crouch is among the first parents to have nurtured children from clearly-too-young-to-have-a-smartphone to now-old-enough,

    . It's only been ten years since the iPhone's debut. And in that time Crouch's eldest child went from eight (too young) to eighteen (old enough). So Crouch is able to speak from a place of not just wisdom but also experience. In fact, his "Crouch Family Reality Checks" at the end of most chap

    Andy Crouch is among the first parents to have nurtured children from clearly-too-young-to-have-a-smartphone to now-old-enough,

    . It's only been ten years since the iPhone's debut. And in that time Crouch's eldest child went from eight (too young) to eighteen (old enough). So Crouch is able to speak from a place of not just wisdom but also experience. In fact, his "Crouch Family Reality Checks" at the end of most chapters, little sections that revealed how well his family lived up to his stated ideals, give the book a weight I haven't felt in other writings on this topic. Even when he had to admit his failures to be fully wise in the formation of his family (and of his own soul), Crouch still had wisdom to offer me.

    Keeping it simple in this review, I'll just list off his family's 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 fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability. We hope to die in one another’s arms.

    Readers of Crouch's other excellent works, particularly

    , will hear Crouchian emphases, especially perhaps in point 2. That's gold. Crouch manages to be perceptive in an arena full of platitudes, and I think he can do this because he's a gifted and dedicated popularizer. His major books have all been teaching and applying the work of scholars to the needs of the church. This book is no exception. Highly recommended.

  • Bob
    Jun 20, 2017

    I think anyone who uses our modern technology--computers, tablets, gaming systems, and especially smartphones, realizes how powerfully addicting these devices can be and the various ways they destroy our engagement with the flesh and blood material world, and especially the other real people in our lives.

    Crouch organizes the book

    I think anyone who uses our modern technology--computers, tablets, gaming systems, and especially smartphones, realizes how powerfully addicting these devices can be and the various ways they destroy our engagement with the flesh and blood material world, and especially the other real people in our lives.

    Crouch organizes the book around some fundamental premises worked out in ten commitments that he and his family have sought to live by. The premises are that families exist to form the character of their members--to form them in wisdom and courage through their relationships and shared lives with each other, and that this is hard yet rewarding work. The other is that technology is "easy everywhere" luring us into easy preoccupation rather than extended conversations, isolation rather than shared experience, distraction rather than devotion, virtual sex rather than the much more challenging real thing, and listening to music and viewing art, rather than making it. Most of all, it lures us away from real into virtual presence with each other.

    The book is interspersed with statistics and diagrams that underscore the impact of technology in our lives. One that caught my attention was on the pervasiveness of digital pornography:

    Yet this is not a book driven by fear of such things but rather a commitment to putting technology in its proper place, helpful tools rather than addictive devices that destroy our capacities for human engagement. What Crouch proposes and that his family seeks to practice is a life that prioritizes people and experience that are not mediated by devices and taking measures such as media sabbaths and vacations and transparency with each other to ensure that this happens. What they wanted for their children is the discovery of the rich experiences of books, long conversations, explorations of nature, singing and making music together, and real presence in life and death with each other.

    Crouch gets real and admits his own failures in the commitments they've made, but also the victories and what this has meant for his family and in his own life. I was a late adopter of smartphone use, but a quick convert to its addictive properties. Commitments to keep phones away from the table, to wake before my phone does, to put it away before I retire and to mute it during important conversations are beginnings of keeping this form of technology in its place. If you are becoming aware of the intrusion of technology into relationships and life experiences that matter more, this book may be helpful for its practical counsel, and a vision of life centered around growing in wisdom and courage rather than in our access to "easy everywhere."

    ___________________________

    Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

  • Rachel Diephouse
    Jun 15, 2017

    I was really excited when this book came up in a group chat I'm in with other Christian school educators. As a middle school teacher in a 1:1 environment (every student has a laptop) in the Silicon Valley, I'm becoming more and more interested in how we can support families in making wise technology boundaries at home. When I first started reading it, I thought it was going to be Tim Keller-esque, combining psychology with Christian theology and practical, real-life application. I started with j

    I was really excited when this book came up in a group chat I'm in with other Christian school educators. As a middle school teacher in a 1:1 environment (every student has a laptop) in the Silicon Valley, I'm becoming more and more interested in how we can support families in making wise technology boundaries at home. When I first started reading it, I thought it was going to be Tim Keller-esque, combining psychology with Christian theology and practical, real-life application. I started with just the Kindle sample, and I absolutely loved both the foreword by Crouch's daughter and his own preface. I love the idea of technology having a "proper place." For example, "Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love. It's out of its proper place when we end up bonding with people at a distance, like celebrities, whom we will never meet" (Crouch 170). I love how his "proper place" ideas examine how we might redeem the practices of technology. This is why our school mantra has been "teach, not ban," as we seek to make our students redeemers of this world. I was so enthralled that I quickly bought the book.

    However, the book quickly moved away from this Reformed worldview to a legalistic list of "commandments" for technology use. The book moved to a focus on when it's not in its proper place rather than also offering ways that it is. Now, don't get me wrong: I highly agree with some of his assertions. Parents SHOULD check their students' devices on a regular basis. Parents SHOULD set time limits on screen time. Parents SHOULD helps children be creators and not just consumers. But it's not all doom and gloom either.

    Crouch is overlooking the powerful things students can learn with technology, and he's overlooking the ways they can use it to redeem our world for Jesus Christ. I'd like to show him my student's spoken word video to eradicate modern day slavery. I'd show him student-created infographics standing up for refugees. I'd show him short stories beaming with creativity and joy. I love how technology amplifies are all too-often overlooked student voices. As Christians influencing these students, I believe it's important for us to not ban these things out of fear, but rather, teach students to put technology in its "proper place" and use it to change the world.

    Finally, the use of data in this book was extremely frustrating to me. Although I found the research the Barna Group did on technology use in families today interesting, it in no way supports Crouch's claims. For example, just because only 46% of respondents didn't go to church within the last week, does not mean that families need to sing more on a regular basis. I hoped to have much more scientific data backing up why technology boundaries are important in the home.

    Therefore, although I agree with many of Crouch's recommendations, I'm wary of the impact this book will have in Christian circles.

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