The Tech-Wise Family is a book that has been snapped up by a lot of parents who are desperate for help as they try to navigate the complexities of their kids’ screen time. Parents often feel over-matched and constantly out-maneuvered by their tech-savvy kids. As soon as parents learn about the latest app, their kids have moved on to something else.
Since I respect Andy Crouch as an author and the Barna Group as a research firm, I was eager to check it out. The Tech-Wise Family seemed like a winning combo.
The approach Crouch outlines in this book revolves around the central concept that technology has a “proper place.” He maintains that “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.”
Andy Crouch and his wife Catherine have two teenagers—ages 16 and 19. Their children were born into a world that wasn’t as saturated with technology as it is today. Parents of younger children today have a more difficult challenge. The Crouch’s kids were already 6 and 9 when the iPhone arrived on the scene 10 years ago.
Many parents will find some of the Crouch family’s tech practices a bit extreme. Crouch readily admits that he and Catherine raised their kids in an unusual way. In fact, one of the sections of the book is called “Almost Almost Amish.” In that section he writes, “You don’t have to become Amish, but you probably have to become closer to Amish than you think.”
Crouch says his family made these 10 tech-wise commitments:
- We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
- We want to create more than we consume. 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. 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 (10 years old) 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.
I’d recommend this book with a few caveats:
#1: The advice contained in this book is at the restrictive end of the tech-use spectrum.
It’s great that Andy and Catherine could keep their kids away from screens until they were 10, but that’s not realistic for most parents today. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time for kids under 18 months, and no more than one hour a day of high quality programming for kids between the ages of 2 and 5. That’s challenging enough, but it seems more realistic.
You don’t have to take an all-or-nothing approach to this book. For example, one family I know whose kids are 7 and 9 moved their television to the basement and eliminated screen time during the week after reading this book.
#2: The abundance of data from Barna and all the recommendations from Crouch can seem overwhelming.
Read this book like you’d sit down to eat a fish—pick through it carefully, eat and digest what you can, and leave the rest. Don’t feel like you need to swallow the whole thing.
#3: To keep this book affordable, the publisher produced a very small book.
I can place my hand over the entire cover. The pages are too small for all the detailed infographics. And they used only two colors—black and red—when they printed the book, so the infographics must use multiple gradients of only two colors, which sometimes makes them difficult to interpret. It’s probably better on a Kindle.
Each family is unique. Each family must come up with its own strategies for becoming tech-wise. And each family must extend grace unto itself. But this book can be a helpful compass as you navigate your family’s use of technology. The goal is to create a home that focuses on relationships, growth, and learning in a way that puts technology in its proper place. And “the proper place” will be different for each family.