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Review: The Tech-Wise Family

July 15, 2018 | In Church, Life

My wife, Fiona, recently put Tech-Wise Family in front of me and suggested that I read it, and I’m glad she did. Andy Crouch has performed a great service in writing this book – one that is good for all people, not just families. It’s been helpful in exposing some of the problems that have been simmering away under the surface of our relationship (and that with family and friends) which we couldn’t clearly identify at first.

At the core of the book are ‘Ten Tech-Wise Commitments’ which Crouch (and his family) have tried to live out. The book begins with some research and commentary about how technology has infiltrated many (if not all) aspects of our lives and helpfully navigates the grey-space of technology’s benefits – identified as being both helpful and unhelpful depending on the context. This isn’t a book that says technology is all bad. It’s a book that helps us think through putting technology in its correct place so that it can be used without being a detriment to every day life.

Throughout the book, Crouch uses research from the Barna Group to highlight current perspectives and trends from American families. Some of these stats are quite surprising because, while there’s clearly issues arising from the pervasiveness of technology in homes, there are not that many resources available for thinking how to deal with them. For example, 24% of those surveyed strongly agreed that electronic devices were a significant disruption to family meals, but this is the first book I’ve come across that both identifies why time like family meals are important and offers some helpful strategies that have been tried at home for use by the whole family (not just for the kids). I expect that the stats offered in this book will be similar in the Australian context (as I also noted in my review of You Lost Me – another book using stats from Barna), but I’d be interested to see what Australian researchers have found.

Without giving too much away, most of Crouch’s argument is based around the premise that relationships and creativity are important and that technology (particularly smart devices of the modern day) are robbing us of both of these things. The 10 Commitments noted throughout the book are designed to allow for both to flourish at home. At the end of each chapter, Crouch provides an assessment of his own family’s living-out of the commitments and some helpful examples from other families when they’ve not been as successful as they had hoped. The honesty of these assessments helped me as a reader know that they’re not just aspirational goals – which are possibly in reach – but that, perhaps with some modifications for our context, could be very helpful. As Crouch also points out – they’re commitments, not commandments, so one probably would want to adapt them so that they are desirable and worthy of striving towards within each reader’s setting.

There are some points in the book where I think I disagree, or that a clearer distinction could have been made. This particularly applies to a discussion about leisure versus rest and in that some of the lines drawn on particular things. For example, in the rest category falls reading a fiction book, but in leisure falls reading the newspaper – and there are similar distinctions throughout the book. For this particular example, I would want to say that reading the newspaper could still fall in to rest – particularly the weekend papers that have long form articles and reviews which can be engaging, thought-provoking and imagination building. Ultimately though, these distinctions aren’t crucial to understanding the book, but do help the reader in forming a perspective on how one might live out the commitments, and so are important to think through.

Even with the small complaint above, I’d wholeheartedly recommend this book. Unconsciously, we’ve seen the fruits of some of the suggested actions coming from Tech-Wise Family in our own home. Even before completing the book, Fiona and I have recently had some great discussions, free from our devices, which have helped us in our communication and marriage. The chapter on commitment 7 and conversations particularly reinforced what we experienced (without us realising what was happening at the time!) Taking the time to sit, talk, and think, without consulting our devices (which, the book states, are ultimately distractions) was incredibly fruitful. In this light, I think some aspects of the book’s commitments could be helpfully applied in a share-house arrangement where relationships could be built and strengthened, likewise in a church community-group context. Furthermore, while Tech-Wise Family is deeply rooted in a Christian view of relationships and purpose it would be good for any adult to read, no matter what their circumstance. I’m hopeful that this book will continue to shape the way I conduct my relationships both in and outside the family – that we have real and deep relationships rather than superficial ones mediated and interrupted by the devices that we have with us nearly all the time. 

You can grab Tech-Wise Family on Book Depository (and in the process, support my writing by using this affiliate link to purchase it – thanks!)

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