Family. Work. Technology. These three spheres of life are inextricably bound together, each influencing our lives in positive and negative ways. Technology, while touted as time-saving, can encroach on both family time and moral character formation within the home. We praise technological advances, yet these same advances often extend our office time beyond quitting time. In his book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place, Andy Crouch explains how to manage technology so we can flourish in every area of our lives.
Importance of family
The family, as a social institution, is a child’s first schoolhouse for developing virtue, learning about female-male relationships and marriage. Crouch writes that family is the place where “We develop wisdom and courage together.” Formation occurs in the context of a family. Historically, this conforming happened naturally and organically before the Industrial Revolution because children worked side-by-side with their parents on the family farm or in a local business. Family life and work life overlapped. However, after the Industrial Revolution, this natural incubator for training our children in wisdom and righteousness was disturbed because men went to work in factories. This separated family and work life. Technology, like iPhones and TV, can also disrupt the family context as an important space for character formation. Crouch explains how “technology distracts and displaces us far too often, undermining the real work of becoming persons of wisdom and courage.” It impacts all of us.
Technology is not neutral
Technology is a wonderful and imaginative expression of the cultural mandate first given to Adam and Eve (Gen 1:26-28). “Technology,” Crouch writes, “is a brilliant, praiseworthy expression of human creativity and cultivation of the world. But it is at best neutral in actually forming human beings who can create and cultivate as we were meant to.”
So what’s different about technology today compared to before? Technology is ubiquitous, and in the words of Crouch, makes “easy-everywhere.” He explains that “while tools helped us to do our work, they didn’t work on their own.” Think about shoveling snow: Shovels do not work on their own; rather shovels require some physical exertion. Many of our devices work on their own. Think about the robotic vacuum, or washers and dryers, or how our garage doors lift after we press a button on a remote.
These devices — and many like them — have made our lives “easy-everywhere.” Yet Crouch raises the provocative question, asking readers to think about the question, “Were we created for easy-everywhere?” What are the implications of lives that are “easy-everywhere”? Technology can extend our work week. Why is that a potential problem? Technology can disrupt our God commanded Sabbath rest. Technology can derail a work-rest rhythm. Technology allows us to feed our addiction to the twin gods of productivity and achievement. In The Tech-Wise Family, Crouch reminds us technology was made for man, not man for technology.
Disciplines and Crouch’s vulnerability
The Apostle Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 6:12, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be dominated by anything.” Crouch offers practical disciplines to help us master our technological gadgets so we are not dominated by them. He offers 10 “tech wise principles” for families to implement, and is transparent as he shares a report card of how well his family keeps these disciplines. These principles are not given to be followed legalistically, but rather they are filled with practical wisdom and grace to put technology in its proper place so we can continue to train our children in the way they should go (Prov 22:6), and therein achieve human flourishing.
While I give this book high marks, it does assume a certain family lifestyle. For instance, one of Crouch’s principles is car time is conversation time. Many workers worry about their car reliably getting them to work, so conversation time is not a priority; and some even take public transportation to and from work. I think Crouch would agree that principles like this must be contextualized or tailored to one’s particular context. This book will enable you to grow in wisdom, the type of understanding, Crouch says, “that guides action.” People should read this book so we, God’s people, can break from unhealthy habits and addictions and rightly put technology is its proper place.