Crouch, Andy. The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place. Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2017. 221 pp.
This year marks the tenth year since the introduction of the iPhone. Along with that introduction has come a tsunami of technological advances that are shaping society. Perhaps the part of society that is most susceptible to this influence is the family. New technology is changing the way that parents exercise their parental roles, influencing how husbands and wives interact with each other and their children. It is changing how we understand rest, use our time, and consume information. In many ways technology has made our lives easier, but is easy always better? In an increasingly tech-saturated world, how can families think wisely about the ubiquitous technological influences? In The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, Andy Crouch attempts to answer that question.
Crouch opens Tech-Wise with a chapter simply entitled “Help!” In it he describes the current situation of technological saturation in families, a situation for which many families are ill-prepared. Hence, Crouch’s goal in the book is to help families make decisions that put technology in its proper place in family life. He argues that there is a better way to relate to technology than allowing it to become the Leviathan in the family. He describes this better way using “Ten Tech-Wise Commitments” by which his family seeks to live. In the context of the modern tech-saturated family, Crouch admits that these commitments will be radical and difficult, but the heart behind them is for the family as a whole and each of its members to flourish as human beings. In order for flourishing to happen, the first and most important aspect to understand is that the family is the primary context in which character development happens. The character traits that each family should impart, according to Crouch, are wisdom and courage. He uses his tech-wise commitments to show how putting technology in its proper place is necessary for the family to fulfill its purpose and to flourish.
It would be hard to overstate the timeliness and importance of this work. Its importance goes well beyond any practical advice that Crouch offers. He thoroughly grounds his proposal for a better approach within a proper understanding of the purpose of family. “Family is about the forming of persons” (52). This purpose is accomplished through the inculcation of the virtues of wisdom and courage.
The teaching of these virtues is why technology must be in its proper place. Crouch describes rightly the nature of modern technology. No longer does technology make our work easier; rather, it increasingly does our work for us. It is making our lives too easy. Crouch is correct to point out that new and easier is not equal to better. Technology has crept so deeply into our lives that parents are now often guilty of taking the easy way out when it comes to parenting. For example, rather than using time wisely by creatively investing in children, modern parents face the temptation to place a device in front of their child for a few moments of quiet. The danger in such activities is that they do not fulfill the purpose of forming persons, or at least not forming persons who will flourish. These moments of temptation are easy and come often. Since technology is everywhere, so are the temptations. Hence, families need to establish commitments like the ones that Crouch explains.
It is helpful that Crouch acknowledges that these commitments are not foolproof. Rather, they act as “nudges.” The commitments should nudge us away from the easy and toward the purpose of family. Since they are nudges, Crouch’s commitments are meant to be character shaping. While not exhaustive, the commitments hone in on some of the most important aspects of character development and flourishing. For example, Crouch notes the importance of space and how it is used in the home. He offers the very constructive idea that the living centers of our homes should be filled with items that promote creativity. Sadly, most of our homes’ living centers are organized around entertainment. The problem with organizing homes around entertainment is that humans are created to reflect the creative nature of our Creator, a purpose hard to fulfill with a home centered on entertainment. Hence, by designing the living space of our homes around the nature of our humanity, we are helping form persons according to the purpose of our design.
Another area where Crouch’s approach offers a great deal of wisdom is in the context of the proliferation of sex through technology. Of great value is his assessment that no amount of filter will protect families from an over-sexualized culture. He describes that there is a better way to combat the pervasiveness of sex, and it is not a technological barrier. It is a fulfilling life. He notes, “So the best defense against porn, for every member of our family, is a full life—the kind of life that technology cannot provide own its own” (172). This is an important idea. Rather than resist culture, we should seek to create a culture that is better and more fulfilling than our hyper-sexualized culture. As noted, this is not easy, but it is necessary for flourishing.
Crouch is right to note that technology is not the problem. Technology is a blessing in incalculable ways. The problem is our use of technology. The better way for families to relate to technology is to create a culture where technology does not replace the function of the family. Crouch admits effort will take a different appearance in each family, but his goal is to encourage families to place the high calling of forming humans above any ease that technology offers.
Crouch’s understanding of the teleology of family is the highlight of this book, and his understanding makes reading the book well worth the time. In an increasingly tech-centric world, families must decide how they will relate to technology. Crouch offers great wisdom for setting up commitments that spur the family on to fulfillment and flourishing. This book is an answer to questions with which many families are struggling, or at least will in the future. It is well worth any family’s time to read this book and allow it to spur on thought and conversation around the relationship of technology and family life.