If you’ve read anything by Andy Crouch, it will not surprise you to hear The Tech-Wise Family is wise, pithy, and balanced. For Crouch, technology1 is neutral, but our application of it has moral implications: “If we don’t learn to put technology . . . in its proper place, we will miss out on many of the best parts of life in a family.”2
In short, the book encourages parents to be present in their home, to help their children thrive in community and to leverage technology to cultivate a life full of real people and experiences.
The Need for The Tech-Wise Family
Crouch identifies several characteristics of today’s technology that require more from today’s parents than parents of the past. Today’s technology . . .
- . . . is everywhere: You cannot escape technology’s grasp, as it’s not limited to a specific place. Technology is at work, at school, at home—even inside us! There is a very real sense that our experience is new in the history of the world and this change has happened rapidly.
- . . . is easy: The promise of today’s technology is that it “just works.” We’ve advanced beyond mere tools to tools that do the work for us! The best technology today requires no training manual, no instruction, and no guidance.
- . . . is fundamentally different: Parents today cannot fall back on specific wisdom from the past, as we have no wisdom that’s been handed down for generations to immediately apply to our particular situation. Additionally, “the pace of technological change has surpassed anyone’s capacity to develop enough wisdom to handle it.”3
- . . . is constantly changing: New technology arrives before we have time to evaluate the effect of current technology on our families.
The Goal of The Tech-Wise Family
As he approaches our unique situation, Crouch offers more than a step-by-step guide; he models a biblically-soaked discernment that has staying power in the midst of so much change. His goal is both simple and monumental:
This book is about how to find the proper place for technology in our family lives—and how to keep it there.4
How do we evaluate the proper place of technology? Technology is in its proper place when it helps us bond with the real people we have been given to love, when it starts great conversations, when it helps us take care of the fragile bodies we inhabit, when it helps us acquire skill and mastery of domains that are the glory of human culture, when it helps us cultivate awe for the created world we are part of and responsible for stewarding, and only when we use it with intention and care.5
As he puts this vision into practice, Crouch offers what he calls “a better way” and targets more than our technology. He expands the focus to our philosophy of the family and life itself.
This better way involves radically recommitting ourselves to what family is about—what real life is about. . . . This book is about much more than just social media, or even screens. It’s about how to live as full, flourishing human beings.6
Again, he doesn’t advocate for a life without technology, but a life where technology is properly ordered: “It is possible to love and use all kinds of technology but still make radical choices to prevent technology from taking over our lives.”7
The Content of The Tech-Wise Family
As Crouch pursues the book’s goal—finding the proper place of technology in our families—he advocates three fundamental choices that apply to everything that touches the family:
- The first and deepest is to choose character—to make the mission of our family, for children and adults alike, the cultivation of wisdom and courage.
- The second is to shape space—to make choices about the place where we live and put that development of character and creativity at the heart of our home.
- The third is to structure time—to build rhythms into our lives, on a daily, weekly, and annual basis, that make it possible for us to get to know one another, God, and our world in deeper and deeper ways.8
These fundamental choices give way to ten commitments that apply Crouch’s goal in concrete, doable steps.9 Each commitment occupies a chapter full of detailed research, practical steps, and personal anecdotes.
The Strengths of The Tech-Wise Family
In addition to its pithiness, clear style, and biblical discernment, the book commends itself on several levels. Here are just a few.
1. It is heavily researched.
Crouch relies heavily on research conducted by the Barna Group and his book is filled with infographics, charts, and data to back up his writing.
The data not only gives significance to the writing, it also confirms for parents what they know already: navigating technology today is tough! For instance, one chart reveals that 65% of parents believe that technology is the number one factor that makes it more difficult to raise kids today.
Because most of the data is presented in colorful charts and graphs, it doesn’t feel academic or scholarly. It does, however, give you confidence in Crouch and it normalizes the struggles we face as families.
You can view their research at www.barna.com. Several of the studies and infographics referenced in The Tech-Wise Family are available online, such as “6 Tech Habits Changing the American Home” and “Forming Family Values in a Digital Age”.
2. It locates the family in the broader community.
The book really is about the family proper, but it doesn’t isolate the family and make it a modern idol. He writes about the family for the church and community, not in opposition to them.
We’ve always needed a community wider than the solitary nuclear family to thrive, and we surely need it now. Almost none of the commitments in this book can be realized by that minimal family unit.10
He even roots the concept of the family in the Christian community itself: ”As a Christian, I don’t actually believe the biological family is the main place we are meant to be known and loved in a way that leads to wisdom and courage. . . . the first family for everyone who wants wisdom and courage in the way of Jesus is the church.”11
It’s encouraging to see Crouch place the proper weight and order to the local church. This is one of our deep commitments at Growing Fathers!
3. It is refreshingly honest and humble.
It would be easy to write only about technology’s dangers or joys, but Crouch avoids these sensational extremes. He shows how technology presents both new challenges and new opportunities. It’s not a sensational book in a good way.
As he provides specific applications (down to how their living room is arranged!), Crouch admits he hasn’t figured it all out. Because of this approach, the book comes across less as a lecture spoken at parents and more as a series of warm reminders and suggestions from someone just ahead of you on the path.12
Weaknesses of The Tech-Wise Family
If I have to pick a few weaknesses, let me suggest the following:
1. It is best suited for parents of older children.
Crouch has two teenagers and his best direction comes when he addresses that age group. I found myself wishing for more specific application to homes with younger kids. That being said, he often references decisions they made with their children when they were younger, and parents of younger children can easily fit his advice into their lives.13
2. It misses some opportunities to give God full voice.
Please don’t misunderstand me, the book is filled with Bible and his entire approach is distinctly Christian. I can find two ways, however, that Crouch could allow God more of a voice.
- He tends to quote the Bible to support his statements rather than the other way around. While he uses the Bible accurately when quoted, I’d like to see this reversed to give the Bible its full weight.
- He leaves out some important biblical passages on the family that immediately apply to technology (e.g., Ephesians 6:1—at least I couldn’t find it!).
The Last Word
Crouch paints a picture of the family that is beautiful. It’s an ideal that sees the family as an interconnected, loving microcosm of what God intends for all our communities. In many ways, for Crouch, technology is an excuse to talk about the family, life, and all they can and should be. I’ll give him the last word:
We are meant to build this kind of life together: the kind of life that, at the end, is completely dependent upon one another; the kind of life that ultimately transcends, and does not need, the easy solutions of technology because it is caught up in something more true and more lasting than any alchemy our technological world can invent. We are meant to be family—not just marriages bound by vows and the children that come from them, but a wider family that invites others into our lives. . . . We are meant not just for thin, virtual connections but for visceral, real connections to one another in this fleeting, temporary, and infinitely beautiful and worthwhile life. . . . We are meant to spur one another along on the way to a better life, the life that really is life. Why not begin living that life, together, now?14
Want more resources? View our resources page to see our other recommended resources for dads.
Crouch essentially uses ”technology” in a colloquial way to refer to digital or electronic technology. See pages 26–27 for his discussion of what he means by technology. ↩︎
Page 10 ↩︎
Page 10 ↩︎
Page 10 ↩︎
Page 10 ↩︎
Pages 16, 24 ↩︎
Page 17 ↩︎
These three points are quoted verbatim from pages 23–24. ↩︎
Crouch’s ten commitments: 1. We develop wisdom and courage together as a family. 2. We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement. 3. 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. 4. We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do. 5. We aim for “no screens before double digits” at school and at home. 6. We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone. 7. Care time is conversation time. 8. Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices. 9. We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship. 10. 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 one another’s arms. ↩︎
Pages 36–37 ↩︎
Pages 36–37 ↩︎
Each chapter ends with a “Reality Check” full of practical application. Many of them start like this, “There are many things we’ve done poorly, belatedly, or distractedly in our family . . . ” (page 123). This refreshing humility makes it easy to give Crouch my ear. ↩︎
As an example, we’ve directly implemented several changes with our little ones, including “tea party” on Sundays for the last two years or so (since I first read the book). The suggestion is to set apart Sundays in a special way for family fellowship and worship (page 59 describes how the Crouches do tea party). ↩︎
Page 129 ↩︎