Summer is upon us.
At our house, kids are suddenly at home instead of at school, which consequently involves setting more boundaries around screens.
Andy Crouch thinks deeply and writes clearly. He’s exploring what human flourishing looks like in a world of technology. This book has influenced the way I think about our use of screens and how we structure our home.
Crouch asks where technology belongs in our lives—what is its proper place? He gives six challenging and thoughtful insights (pp. 20-1):
- 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, who we will never meet.
- Technology is in its proper place when it starts great conversations. It’s out of its proper place when it prevents us from talking with and listening to one another.
- Technology is in its proper place when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit. It’s out of its proper place when it promises to help us escape the limits and vulnerabilities of those bodies altogether.
- Technology is in its proper place when it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture (sports, music, the arts cooking, writing, accounting; the list could go on and on). When we let technology replace the development of skill with passive consumption, something has gone wrong.
- Technology is in its proper place when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding (our family spend some joyful and awe-filled hours when our children were in middle school watching the beautifully produced BBC series Planet Earth). It’s out of its proper place when it keeps us from engaging the wild and wonderful natural world with all our senses.
- Technology is in its proper place only when we use it with intention and care. If there’s one thing I’ve discovered about technology, it’s that it doesn’t stay in its proper place on its own; much like my children’s toys and stuffed creatures and minor treasures, it finds its way underfoot all over the house and all over our lives. If we aren’t intentional and careful, we’ll end up with quite an extraordinary mess.
Understanding technology in its “proper place” leads to Ten Tech-Wise Commitments for the Crouch family (pp. 41-2):
- We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
- We want to create more than we consume. So 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. So 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’ 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 each other’s arms.
Many of these ideas resonate with me. Others challenge me. We haven’t applied them rigidly and unthinkingly—each family is different. But it has encouraged me to be intentional and disciplined in the choices we make to shape our lives.
One of the things I love about Crouch’s approach is his honesty. This isn’t dogma. At the end of each chapter, he does a “Crouch Family Reality Check” to assess their own successes and failures around these ideals.
We stop and do that every now and then too—especially at the beginning of summer.