The Tech-Wise Family

Resource Review by Michelle Helmkamp

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

Andy Crouch has written a thought-provoking book on the wise use of technology in today’s families.  A recent Gallop poll states that 78% of parents believe raising kids today is more complicated than it was when they were kids. 65% of those respondents attributed technology/social media as contributing to making parenting more difficult.  We’ve got a problem with technology negatively effecting our ultimate goal of raising our kids into young adults saturated in the Gospel. 

Book Summary

Andy Crouch does not argue for the complete eradication of technology within our homes, but instead encourages readers to keep “technology in its proper place in order to keep relationships, our health, our goals and our growth as disciples in their proper place (P. 20).”

He speaks of making “nudges”– small changes in the environment around us that make it easier for us (and our kids) to make the choices we want to make. 

The author is candid with sharing his ideals vs. the reality of how he has lived out that ideal in his home. His goal has been to stay in the fight to keep technology from taking over more of his family’s life.  To keep technology at bay in his family, Andy Crouch developed three keys. First, we must be people who choose character. He encourages readers to ask these questions together as a family as they navigate life (and technology), “Will this help me become less foolish and more wise?  Will this help me become less fearful and more courageous?” There are no ten commandments of technology that we must all follow blindly–but he challenges us to have the courage to make the wise choice. Secondly the author talks about intentionally shaping your living space by making choices about the place where you live that put the development of character and creativity at the heart of your home. (I loved this part of the book. It made me want to totally redesign our whole home!)  The idea here goes back to “nudges”. If you have creative things out in the center of your home, you will gravitate towards those more naturally. The last big picture goal involves structuring your time in a way that builds rhythms into your life on a daily, weekly, and annual basis, that make it possible for you to get to know one another, God, and our world in deeper ways. This idea of putting technology in its correct place by purposefully fasting from technology on a regular basis was challenging but really rings true. 

Michelle’s Review

I loved the vision set forth in these three principles of families committed to true and deep relationship with God and His creation.  They are foundational and should be understood before hearing the author’s much shorter list of ten ways his family specifically tried to live out these principles.  

  1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family. 
  2. We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.
  3. 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.
  4. We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
  5. We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home.
  6. We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone
  7. Car time is conversation time.
  8. Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
  9. We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
  10. 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.  

Even though my kids are almost all grown and out of the house, I loved this book! The ten specific ideas for keeping technology in its proper place are not just a list of DON’T’S but foundational for building healthy relationships in the world that we live in today.  Beyond that, the author places a great emphasis on God’s purpose for family. Our Father created us to live and grow together in families (both biological and spiritual families). So much of the way technology is used currently does the opposite of bringing us together as families—instead it separates and isolates us. You don’t have to think long to know what I am talking about…the teenager with ear buds in his ears the entire car trip, the child sitting at the dinner table totally engrossed in a Youtube video, the teenager who sees on social media that all her friends were together but she was not invited.  None of us would say that we need MORE technology effecting our kids and families—but without a specific plan, we naturally drift into the ease that technology offers. 70% of parents say they have an explicit set of values for their family, but less than 30% have written out that purpose or mission statement. What if we took that as a challenge as the parents of kids at Gospel City? What if we as a church family decided to make some hard choices together in the area of technology?  This list of ideas for keeping technology in its proper place is a great place to start the discussion with your family.