This is a very insightful book, filled with wisdom and practical applications about technology in the home, from a Christian perspective.
Andy Crouch is clear from the beginning that technology itself is not “bad.” It can make our lives richer and more efficient, if used correctly. But if not used in moderation, it provides an “easy everywhere” escape that can lead us to neglect the important people and tasks in our lives, short-changing us all. He uses some current research from Barna (included in this book with several pie charts and other graphs in each chapter) and gives us ten basic principles that he and his family have tried to live by (not perfectly–he is quite honest about the places they’ve fallen short as well), and why.
It’s the “why” that I think is very valuable here, because guides like this could so easily fall into legalism, or present “formulas” to simply force us to act in a certain way, but without something deeper and more powerful guiding us, simple behavior modification is not enough. Crouch says that one of the main purposes of a family is to teach wisdom and courage, and this is his first principle.
“We want to create more than we consume. So we fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement.”
This one I thought was very valuable, and it approaches “technology in moderation” from a positive perspective, focusing on developing something, rather than just cutting back on something else. He encourages families to keep musical instruments on hand–even grand pianos in their living room if they have the space and money! One of the big problems with TV and other “devices” is that they tend to reward passivity. Children (and adults) need to engage with art, cooking, music, reading, and other things that engage our whole selves.
Principle three covers the idea of a “Sabbath rest” for ourselves, but also for our devices. We have to know how to unplug and be willing to do it on a regular basis. I thought his contrast between “work and rest” vs. “labor and toil” was interesting.
Principle four, which I thought was one of the most valuable, says that “We wake up before our devices do, and they ‘go to bed’ before we do.” He encourages families to make their bedrooms into screen-free zones, and to not allow their phones to be the first thing they go for in the morning as well as the last thing they see before closing their eyes. Machines do not need rest, but we do, because we are not machines.
Another principle aims for “no screens before the age of ten” for children, which may not be very practical in families with more than one or two children, but still emphasizes, without legalism, the importance of giving children a childhood that will enrich them, engage them, build their brains, introduce them to nature, rather than bewitching them with glowing screens. I couldn’t agree more.
Other principles involve being willing to sing and making our own music rather than simply “consuming” what others play, and not automatically turning to a device the entire time we’re traveling, or waiting, or in a “pause” between one thing and another.
Principle eight deals with pornography, which is a concern of many parents. Crouch says filtering is a good idea, but shouldn’t be all we do. Here’s how he puts it:
“All addictions feed on, and are strengthened by, emptiness. When our lives are empty of relationships, porn’s relationship-free vision of sex rushes in to fill the void. When our lives are empty of meaning, porn dangles before us a sense of purpose and possibility. When our lives have few deep satisfactions, porn at least promises pleasure and release. Nearly half of teenagers who use porn, according to Barna’s research, say they do so out of boredom…
“So 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 satisfactions of learning in 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 is the kind of home that can equip all of us with an immune system strong enough to resist pornography’s foolishness. …”
This book is not a long read, but is pretty concise, and has given me a lot to consider, both in the ways we are already incorporating some of these principles, but also in the ways we might need to adjust our thinking. Definitely recommended for Christian families who use technology (which is just about all of us!)
Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/wa….