Parenting books are written for parents. Obviously. They’re written for adults by adults to read about the young people who live in their homes. But if all of us adults are honest, it’s been a minute since we’ve been teenagers and the world in which we grew up is different because of technology than the world in which our children are growing up. We may think we know what it’s like, but did we believe our parents knew what it was like when we were teenagers in the relationship? Probably not. The Crouch family helps by offering both perspectives in their Tech-Wise books.
Andy Crouch wrote The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place to describe how his family approaches using technology. And three years later, just released in November 2020, he and his daughter, Amy Crouch, wrote a response to it that primarily is from her perspective and describes her experience growing up in their home. It’s called My Tech-Wise Life: Growing up and Making Choices in a World of Devices. She was 19 years old when the majority of the book was written and 20 years old by the time it was published.
The two books combined provide insights from one parent to another and the perspective of a teenager growing in a home shaped by the environment her parents created. She discusses why the home in which she was raised was helpful for her own approach to technology and emotional development. Writing this book while she’s still a teenager, her perspective is fresh and kids can easily relate to her experience.
Both books are rooted in data from real families and real teenagers.
They leverage studies from Barna to explain how parents and their children interact with devices and technology, sometimes including the difference between what we say we do and what we actually do. The information is not only woven into the narrative but also communicated through pages covered with pie charts and other graphs that help tell the story of teenagers today.
The Tech-Wise Family is built around 10 “Tech-Wise Commitments.”
These are principles by which the Crouch family aims to live. There’s a chapter for each one, and always included is a “Reality Check” where Andy shares what the concept looks like in practice, recognizing that the ideal isn’t always what happens in real life.
The 10 topics he discusses are:
- Choosing Character: We develop wisdom and courage together as a family.
- Shaping Space: We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.
- Structuring Time: 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.
- Waking and Sleeping: We wake up before our devices do, and they “go to bed” before we do.
- Learning and Working: We aim for “no screens before double digits” [age 10] at school and at home.
- The Good News about Boredom: We use screens for a purpose, and we use them together, rather than using them aimlessly and alone.
- The Deep End of the (Car) Pool: Car time is conversation time.
- Naked and Unashamed: Spouses have one another’s passwords, and parents have total access to children’s devices.
- Why Singing Matters: We learn to sing together, rather than letting recorded and amplified music take over our lives and worship.
- In Sickness and in Health: 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.
The book has helpful ideas and insights for anyone raising children surrounded by technology and is rooted in the Crouch family Christian worldview.
He summarizes it all at the end by saying: “We are meant for so much more than technology can ever give us — above all, for the wisdom and courage that it will never give us. We are meant to spur one another along the way to a better life, the life that really is life.”
Technology is a tool and should be in its proper place.
My Tech-Wise Life focuses on what it was like to grow up in this “almost almost Amish” environment.
The chapters talk about comparison, distraction, isolation, “hiding with tech,” editing our lives, boredom, and exhaustion. At the end of each one, there’s a section called What To Do Next: Practices for Your-Tech Wise Life with questions for kids to answer by themselves or to discuss with their family.
Following those thought-provoking ideas, Andy, Amy’s dad, writes her a letter with his thoughts on what she has shared, sometimes expanding on the ideas, sometimes sharing more of how their Christian worldview shapes their perspective, and sometimes sharing thoughts of a proud dad.
For the whole family
Whether or not your family shares their faith and implements their entire approach to technology, these two books are an excellent pair for parents and children — especially teenagers — to read together. They will certainly spark conversation about how, as a family, you want to approach devices.