I have three boys. 13, 11, and 1. They are growing up in a time that is much different from the time in which I grew up. I can remember a time before the internet. I remember using typewriters. Not just the automatic ones but the old school ones where an arm with 2 letters or numbers engraved on it vertically came up and struck a ribbon to leave an imprint of that letter on the paper. If you didn’t strike the letter hard enough it would not leave an imprint. I bet kids back then had much stronger hands than my kids do today. I remember when you had to go to the school library to get on the dial-up internet and having dial-up at my house on my huge computer and my mom picking up the phone and me being so mad that she kicked me off the internet. Growing up, technology was the remote control that changed the channel on the TV so I didn’t have to walk up to the cable box and change it. I’m only 41 years old but technology has changed so much and become such apart of our culture and lives that we can’t imagine life without it. I used to have to dial in on the phone line to get a slow web browser and wait for a pixelated picture to appear on my screen. Now I can pull the internet out of my pocket and get any information or entertainment I want in under twenty seconds. And if it takes longer than twenty seconds, I get annoyed.
Today’s kids, my kids, are growing up with technology all around them. It is easy to get information on anything at anytime, anywhere in seconds. The information I used to have to look up in our encyclopedias (some of which, by the way, isn’t even true anymore) can now be found without thinking “Q, R, S, T!” in your head as you search for your specific topic.
Raising my kids in this culture and not wanting to create technology addicted adults who would rather spend time with technology than people led me to pick up The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch. Anyone with children can see how easily they can become addicted to screens. My one-year-old wants my phone all the time! And ashamedly, I know it’s because he sees my eyes on it more often than they should be and he wants to see what the big deal is. It’s instances like this that made me dive deep into The Tech-Wish Family.
I know that I am not alone in my concern for my kids and technology and how to handle it. The Tech-Wise Family contains many insights and research from the Barna group on this topic. They found that 65% of parents today think that technology is the reason that parenting is more difficult than it was when they were kids. Andy Crouch gives “Ten Tech-Wise Commitments” (41) that he encourages families to make to help us nudge and discipline ourselves in a better direction when it comes to technology. He mentions that these commitments are not “The Ten Commandments,” not an absolute list of do’s and don’ts for technology use, but he hopes they are starting points for discussion and some choices that your family will make about technology.
Ten Tech-Wise 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 screen 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.
All of these are good, but there are a couple that really jumped out to me. First was number one, “We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.” The idea of this is basically our family as a whole putting wisdom and courage first and putting technology “on the edges” (69). Wisdom and courage are not characteristics that can be attained through technology. They are obtained through experiences and relationships. Technology can build up a great knowledge base but building true life giving relationships that will build wisdom and courage is done in person, face to face. I believe we, and our kids, can do much more for the Kingdom of God when we have wisdom and courage than we can with all the knowledge in the world.
The next commitment that struck a chord with me was number two, “We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.” If you come to my home the room where most of the visiting happens and where we spend the most time has a big TV at its center. As I think about what we do as family activities, from time to time we do creating activities together, but the vast majority of they time, our activities are consuming. Technology is mostly a consuming activity in my life, and usually it’s an aimless one done to fill or waste time. I will admit that I am not the most creative of people. I am not a singer, drawer, writer, or other creative type-er. But, that shouldn’t stop me from leading my family in creative activities that promote skill and engagement. This commitment really got me thinking about how I can fill our family’s free or down times (as little as those are) with something more creative than watching TV or movies.
Number seven was another commitment that I need to really work on. It is so easy to get in the car and just let everyone do their own thing. Listen to music, get on social media, check text messages, or ride in silence. But in the car is when we have the most captive of audiences. No one can get away. As of yet I have not had anyone unlock a door and jump out while we were moving, though that may happen when I start making drive time conversation time. Andy Crouch quotes Sherry Turkle’s book, Reclaiming Conversations, when he shares, “most conversations take at least seven minutes to really begin” (157). She believes that during the first seven minutes we are able to depend on topics like “weather, routine reports about our day, minimal and predictable chitchat” (157). Living in the DFW Metroplex, there are few drives that take fewer than seven minutes. So every time we are in the car, we have the opportunity to have genuine conversations with our friends and family. For me, it made me think of all the information about my family I missed out on because I had the music up loud or was on my phone during our drive (as a passenger). Of all the commitments, this one is an easy one for me to commit to. I am looking forward to hearing from and sharing with people more on our commutes.
Overall, the Tech-Wise Family is a great read. I would say it should be required reading for anyone with children and probably a needed read for everyone. Technology is a great tool, but it has really taken ahold of our lives in a way that I believe is unhealthy. I heard a comedian say the other day that he left his phone at home one day and when he realized it, he started to have heart palpitations until he could get back to it. Then, he shared that one time he left his son at the grocery store and when he realized it, he turned around to go get him but his heart was fine. Funny, yes, but maybe hits closer to home for many of us than we would want to admit. We have given technology too much power in our lives and we need to take it back not just for us but for our kids too. The Tech-Wise Family and the commitments it lays out will help us take back our lives and families from technology.