The Tech-Wise Family - Book review

A practical and challenging guide by Andy Crouch, helping to put technology in its proper place in your home.

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A friend Alain, saw this book sitting at my desk and told me not to read it unless I was ready to change my life. I held off for six months knowing he was probably right and only reneged when my wife read it and started changing things for our family. 

James K A Smith notes in his endorsement of the book that micro practices have macro implications in our lives. The rituals we adopt around the tiny computers in our pockets can either eat us alive or release us for relationship. This book invites us into habits and rhythms in which technology serves our calling rather than becoming an idol.

The book includes some fascinating research from the Barna group. Most parents (78%) believe raising kids today is more complicated then it was when they were kids and the main reason is technology and social media. Crouch doesn't suggest that we become Amish, but closer to the Amish than we might think. He talks about the importance of nudges and disciplines. For Crouch, there are three fundamental choices we must make – to choose character, to shape space and finally to structure time. From this he suggests “ten commitments” for a healthy family life with technology.

For Crouch, family is about forming wisdom and courage in an age of “easy everywhere.” There is a difference between making lives easier and making them better. He argues that in the most intimate setting of the household, where the deepest human work of our lives is meant to take place, technology distracts and displaces us far too often, undermining the real work of becoming persons of wisdom and courage. Our response should be to put relationships at the centre and technology at the edges. 

Having chosen character, we need to shape our space so that we create more than we consume. In simple terms, if your main living space is full of books and games rather than computers and TVs, you are more likely to use the former. If there is no TV in your living room, you will watch less.

Thirdly, Crouch suggests that we need to structure our time around the biblical rhythms of work and rest. So for one hour a day, one day a week and one week a year, he urges us to turn off our devices and worship, feast, play and rest together. 

Crouch then goes on to unpack a series of rest of his tech-wise commitments. These are designed to put limits on technology, increase transparency and include pro-active steps to increase conversation and in-person relationships. 

Crouch is pragmatic and practical acknowledging how his own family have done holding to each commitment. He also rightly notes that in different seasons of life, the emphasis will look different, depending particularly on the age and stage of kids. 

This book isn’t rocket science, but it might give you the nudge you need to make small but significant changes in how technology shapes you and your family. Crouch bases his thinking on biblical perspectives, but like proverbial wisdom it is applicable to all. Though the Barna research is American, data here is likely to be similar and Crouch uses it to remind us how influential technology is in our lives. 

If you don’t have a family strategy for dealing with technology, it will consume you. This book suggests some simple boundaries which could change your family life and for that reason it is well worth reading. And who had to make the biggest changes in the Lynas household - Dad of course!


Peter LynasComment