by Josh Good
My friend was incredulous: “Wait, seriously? Your kids use no technology in their school?”
If there were just one way to characterize our age, it’s the transformation to all things digital. We live in a technological age, the gig economy, the IT economy. And while our smartphones and iPads make possible new levels of communication and many good things, the promise of easy everywhere somehow doesn’t satisfy our deep longings. Too many kids—and too many parents—are glued to glowing rectangles, disconnecting us from one another and the full, embodied lives for which we are made.
This is the basis for Andy Crouch’s The Tech-wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in its Proper Place, which argues that today’s families can choose a different, better path. He recommends “nudges” to shape the physical spaces where we live, and more wisely structure time, to prioritize wisdom and character—the purpose of family life.
Crouch summarizes his thesis in an inviting 24-min. talk, arguing that our technological reliance is a bit like biting the proverbial apple. Initially, the digital age beckons us to a world in which boredom, loneliness, and lack of companionship are gone forever—a place where parents can pay bills or Facetime with friends while their kids have something age-appropriate to watch and learn from.
At first, technology delivers. Facebook brings the latest from our friends to our sofa. But as we grow increasingly addicted, social media fails to shape (for the better) our character; technology doesn’t bring the healthy community, authentic worship, and real rest we need.
So Andy offers 10 practical suggestions—admitting that none of us, his family included, approaches them perfectly:
Shape the physicality of home spaces—which historically had a family hearth, not a TV, in the center. In family life, create more than you consume: “Push technology and cheap thrills to the edges; move deeper, more lasting things to the core.
Structure time to include a rest: “One hour a day, one day a week, one week per year, turn off devices to worship, feast, play, and rest together.”
Rise before our devices rise, and put them to sleep before we go to bed at night.
Engage complexity. Learn to play a real guitar, cello, or piano. The real thing is harder and better than an iPhone app.
No screens before double digits. “We owe them, at the very least, their early years of real, embodied, difficult, rewarding learning.”
Cultivate in each child “the rich life of a soul in a body, rather than reducing them to a brain on a stick.”
Use screens “purposefully and together, not aimlessly and alone.”
Car time is conversation time. Sherry Turkle says good conversations typically deepen in the seventh minute—and that our omnipresent devices tend to kill the intimacy and depth that wants to happen, thanks to momentary glances at our phones.
Spouses have each other’s passwords, and parents have total access to their children’s devices.
Sing together and aloud, rather than letting recorded, amplified music run our lives.
The book includes some beautifully written reflections on the power of in-person relationships, and it challenges families to persevere through boredom to more deeply reflect the image of God. Learn! Play outdoors! Cook together! Read and talk by the fire!
Crouch admits this dialing-back of technology is a harder path, but the case he makes resonates deeply with The Augustine Academy, which aims in the classroom and on home-days to help our students and families live more fully coram Deo, in the presence of God: “We are meant not just for thin, virtual connections, but for visceral connections to one another—in this fleeting, temporary, and infinitely beautiful and worthwhile life.”