It’s tough to know how to parent when there are so many technological devices around. We can’t really look back to see how our parents did it or how generations before us handled iPhones and tablets and internet. In our house, my technology parenting questions are mostly a result of my son creating a YouTube channel and animating with Flash. Of course, he also wants to spend a lot of time watching and listening to things online. My girls like to watch things and play Minecraft or Prodigy or search for crafts on Pinterest.
So I am always left with questions like:
- Once my son’s screen time is completed, is it okay for his to listen to music on YouTube with the window minimized? Or is that just for screen time?
- Should I give him as much time on the computer as his sisters get? Or should he get more so he has time to create?
- What should I do when I give each girl an hour of screen time and they stack it and plan it so they all get to watch 3 hours of screen time? Should I prevent them from doing that? Or is it good that they problem solved and planned together?
When I saw The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place by Andy Crouch, I was hoping the author would have some simple answers for me. Like, exactly how much time should a 12-year-old spend in front of a screen each day? Unfortunately, I didn’t get any easy answers. What I did get was something better. Andy Crouch gave 10 Tech-Wise Commitments and plenty of other thoughts to mull over about how I approach and view technology not only for my kids but for my life as well.
Here are the thoughts that especially caught my attention:
There is a broad definition of technology
When I use the word “technology,” I am generally referring to a computer or TV screen used for mostly entertainment. But The Tech-Wise Family defines technology as anything that makes life easy or everywhere like electric lights, refrigerators, and cars in addition to all the amazing technological advancements in the computer age. I appreciated this and it made me feel connected to parents of the past who had to parent through new technologies. They just weren’t the same inventions that I have to navigate through. Can you imagine being a parent during the time cars were first invented? Talk about some major parenting and technology decisions! That makes navigating my kid’s Kindles seem easy!
Technology is not bad
I find myself as a parent fighting against technology so much that I’ve begun to see it as bad. But Andy Crouch reminds me that it’s not bad. It’s neutral. Yes, it is often distracting and displaces our real work. He says our real work is to “become persons of wisdom and courage.” He also encourages us “to create and cultivate.” Technology is neutral in this. It can help us or prevent us from wisdom, courage, creation, and cultivation. It depends on how we are using it. I really appreciated this thought when it came to how I view my son’s time on the computer when he is animating. I used to look at him while he was doing it thinking about how I can get him off. Now, especially after I saw some of his little cartoons, I see that he is creating when he is animating. In this case, the technology is helping him become a person who creates. Now when my daughter says “that’s not fair, I should be able to watch Netflix for as long as he animates”…ummm….no. And usually when I say no, she pouts for a minute and then goes and rides her bike or plays outside or asks to help cook. And she is much happier because of it. Andy Crouch says the question is: “Does this use of technology make me the kind of human being who could contribute lasting value to my family, my neighbors, my society, and our broken world?” A great question! And not just for the kids.
Arrange your home to encourage creating, skill, and active engagement
He challenged us to look around our living room. What do we have available in these common spaces to encourage us towards wisdom and courage? Are there books? Musical instruments? Art supplies? What is in the room that distracts us from those goals? Get rid of the distractions (put them out of the room or out of sight) and purposefully bring in what encourages us.
Technology has changed work into toil and rest into leisure
I appreciated the way he defined these terms. He also readily admitted that you may not be able to change the nature of your 9-to-5 toil into work, but you can take the opportunity to rest when you can and realize that mindlessly scrolling through Facebook is not rest. How much of my free time do I spend resting and how much do I cram it with leisure? He says “we simply have to turn off the easy fixes and make media something we use on purpose and rarely rather than aimlessly and frequently.”
I highly recommend The Tech-Wise Family. Most of the time I was reading this book, I forgot that it was a parenting book. I think that any person living today that uses any kind of technology would benefit from the book.
It’s an easy read and conversational. I also appreciated the reality check at the end of each chapter where Andy Crouch let us know how easy or hard that particular principle was to apply to his own family. That gave the whole book a “we are all in this together” feel knowing the author is working on these principles, too.
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