Confession: I love my smartphone! There you go. I’ve admitted it. I also loved (past tense) my tablet. But it is now about six years old and at the rate that technology updates you could say that it has passed its prime. These devices have been brilliant in so many ways. They have made so many things easy. Easy everywhere and easy anytime. I have no desire to return to a normal mobile phone – even though playing “Snake” on my old Nokia was fun! Of course for me, and maybe for you, there has been a cost to using these amazing devices: easy availability of work when I shouldn’t be working; easy escape to entertainment when I should be attentive to real people and real tasks; easy access to knowledge, when maybe I should be cultivating wisdom.
Then there is the home and the family. “If there is one word that sums up how many of us feel about technology and family life, it’s Help!” So says the author, Andy Crouch. Our home is not one that I would consider completely dominated by small (or large) glowing screens. However, like many households, these remarkable devices have become a normal feature of home life. Also, like many households trying to find a healthy balance for the use of such technology, we feel like we are sometimes swimming and sometimes sinking! We don’t want to be a household of ever-lengthening lists of rules around the use of technology, but rather one that puts technology in its proper place. We don’t want to be a household focused on screen time limits, but rather one that focuses on what family life is all about. How about you?
During the recent four day fast we did as a church, one of the things my kids elected to give up was all screen time with the exception of screen-based homework. Amber & I were doing the same, but let me talk about the kids. Although it was self-imposed, once the decision was taken we did not let them go back on it, knowing that the temptation to do so would be strong. The first day was pretty rough. They came home from school and there was no pre-packaged entertainment for them. They were agitated and irritable. We suggested that they be creative, to fill the time with something else. When I came home after the third day, I walked into a house where Ethan and Amber were sitting on the sofa chatting and laughing, while Erin was busying herself in the kitchen baking cookies. Quite a different picture to finding them at different corners of the house, separated and glued to a screen. Their feedback after the fast was how much they enjoyed it and how good it felt.
This brings me to the book. I came across “The Tech-Wise Family” by Andy Crouch over Christmas. It has really stimulated my thinking and has moved Amber & I to ask some important questions:
- Are we putting technology in it’s proper place in our lives and the life of our family?
- Our devices promise an ‘easy everything and easy everywhere’ life. But is ‘easy everything’ and ‘easy everywhere’ a worthy pursuit?
- What is the kind of life we actually want to build?
- What is the kind of home we want to create?
- What is the family life we want to cultivate?
To paraphrase the author: we instinctively know that the very best of life has almost nothing to do with the devices we buy and use but a lot to do with the choices we make. Choices that our devices often make more difficult. We are continually being nudged by our devices towards a set of choices. The question is whether those choices are leading us to the life we actually want. Do you want a life of conversation, creativity, friendship and connection or do you want a life of distraction, disengagement and entertainment?
Is this an anti-technology book? By no means! That would be quite silly given the amount of technology that would have been employed just to write and produce it. Far from it. This is for anyone wanting to find the proper place for technology in their lives (and the life of their family) and to keep it there! Particularly technology in the form of smartphones, tablets, gaming stations, laptops and the like.
Andy has written a brilliant little book with revealing and helpful insights from the Barna Group. I cannot recommend this title enough. I really hope that it will stimulate your thinking and prompt you to ask good questions about the technology choices you are making and the life you want to build for you and your family.
Check out the trailer here. Yes, some books actually have trailers. Now there is technology for you!