Over the past year I’ve read a lot of books, articles, and blog posts about screen time. I’ve tried to balance my reading between theoretical works from experts, as well as practical tips from parents who are in the trenches.
Out of everything I’ve read, there is one book that stands out: The Tech-Wise Family* by Andy Crouch. This book is unique because it strikes a great balance between telling us why we need to be mindful of how our family’s use screens and actionable ideas that you can implement right away.
Crouch’s goal in writing The Tech-Wise Family* is to provide everyday steps for putting technology in its proper place. The book is geared toward Christians, but I think that any parent could walk away with ideas on how to better manage screen time in their family regardless of religious preferences.
As with any book, you can extract what might work for your family and if something seems extreme or out of the question, then I encourage you to perhaps at least consider some of the ideas. None of our lives are the same. (The author’s life with two children is different from my life with five.) You know your situation best and can adapt your tech philosophy to fit your family’s values and culture.
I think the idea is this: if you want to see a change in how your family uses technology, then you’ll need to stretch a little. It needs to be a little bit uncomfortable. Not so much that you are pushing a spouse or children away, but just stretching a bit. It’s a fine line, and we are learning right along with you. I truly believe the effort will be worth it!
Here are a few of my favorite quotes and takeaways, but this is just the tip of the iceberg! I would recommend reading The Tech-Wise Family* to help you shape your family’s tech plan.
- “If there is one thing our children need to hear from us, over and over again, it’s this: “Our family is different.” (p. 19) I have often heard some of my favorite parenting mentors, Richard and Linda Eyre, say something very similar. They’ve said that when kids tell you what so-and-so does at their house, then you can reply, “That’s great that works for them, but in our family we…”
- “Figuring out the proper place for technology in our particular family and stage of life requires discernment rather than a simple formula.” (p. 19)
- “…Nudges are small changes in the environment around us that make it easier for us to make the choices we want to make or want others to make. Nudges don’t generally make us do anything, but they make certain choices easier and more likely. They don’t focus so much on changing anything about our own preferences and ability to choose well; they simply put the best choice right in front of us and make the wrong choice harder. An increasing body of psychological research suggests that our supply of willpower—the ability to make hard decisions that go against our instincts or preferences—is limited. Nudges help us make some of those right decisions without having to use up that precious limited supply of willpower, leaving it available for the moments when we really need it.” (p. 33) This is exactly the idea behind our Family Tech Think Tank! When we create a Family Tech Plan then we are creating “nudges” to help our kids and ourselves naturally strike a healthy balance with screen time.
- “One key part of the art of living faithfully with technology is setting up better nudges for ourselves.” (p. 35)
- “But nudges will never, on their own, build the wisdom and courage we need—partly because we often can’t control our environment, no matter how much we’d like to. We need to change something inside of us as well: to develop the strength to make good choices even when everything around us is nudging, or pushing, us in the wrong direction. And for that we need disciplines.” (p. 35) Crouch talks about spiritual disciplines, which I appreciate, but this concept can also be applied outside of a spiritual realm and be looked at from a psychological perspective. We can work on achieving a healthy and positive mindset about technology and help our kids know what to do when sticky situations arise.
- “We will have to teach our children, from early on, that we are not here as parents to make their lives easier but to make them better. We will tell them—and show them—that nothing matters more to our family that creating a home where all of us can be known, loved, and called to grow. And then we’ll have to make hard choices—sometimes radical choices—to use technology in a very different way from the people around us. Making those choices will require wisdom and courage. But the rewards will be amazing.” (p. 68-69)
- “We want to create more than we consume.” (p. 71)
- “Find the room where your family spends the most time and ruthlessly eliminate the things that ask little of you and develop little in you. Move the TV to a less central location—and ideally a less comfortable one. And begin filling the space that is left over with opportunities for creativity and skill, beauty, and risk.” (p. 79)
- “The less we rely on screens to occupy and entertain our children, the more they become capable of occupying and entertaining themselves.” (p. 133)
- “…The best defense against porn, for every member of our family, is a full life—the kind of life that technology cannot provide on its own. This is why the most important things we will do to prevent porn from taking over our own lives and our children’s lives have nothing to do with sex. A home where wisdom and courage come first; where our central spaces are full of satisfying, demanding opportunities for creativity; where we have regular breaks from technology and opportunities for deep rest and refreshment (where devices “sleep” somewhere other than our bedrooms and where both adults and children experience the satisfaction of learning in the thick, embodied ways rather than thin, technological ways); where we’ve learned to manage boredom and where even our car trips are occasions for deep and meaningful conversation—this kind of home that can equip all of us with an immune system strong enough to resist pornography’s foolishness.” (p. 172-173)
- “The truth is that if we build our family’s technological life around trying to keep porn out, we will fail..The path to health is not encasing our children in some kind of germ-free sterile environment that they will inevitably try to flee; rather, it is having healthy immune systems that equip us to resist and reject things that do not lead to health.” (p. 173-174)
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