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Put Technology in its Proper Place

Ever since Andy’s dad brought home a computer and modem in the 1970s, he has enjoyed the use of technology and calls himself a certified geek.  He has seen our dependency on electronic devices rise considerably especially since Apple introduced the groundbreaking iPhone in 2007.  “An awful lot of children have been competing with their parents’ screens for attention their whole lives,” says Andy.  Parents are using laptops to get caught up on work; sick or unruly children are playing video games all day long; kids see peers overexpose themselves on social networking sites.  Recent research shows that technology is the number one reason parents believe raising kids today is more complicated than in the past.  Andy believes there is a better way and it doesn’t require any of us to become Amish.  “But you have to be closer to Amish than you think,” he says.  Andy’s family isn’t Amish but they love to buy food from their Amish neighbors.  “We’ve watched them work together.  We’ve admired their family life,” says Andy.  “We’ve seen how people made different choices about technology and it was attractive to us.”

We all use technology, but we have to limit how we use it.  Technology has been the greatest revolution the world has ever known, but it’s not always best for our families.  Family is about the forming of persons and family shapes us in many ways.  It is through the family unit that we discover who we are.  Technology is only good for our families if it can help us become the persons we were meant to be.  “Technology is good at serving humans and even saving lives, but it is at best neutral in actually forming human beings who can create and cultivate as we were meant to,” says Andy, who came up with 10 commitments that we can all make toward living a better life.

  1. Develop wisdom and courage
  2. Fill the center of our home with things that reward skill and active engagement
  3. One hour a day, one day a week, one week a year plan for a rest from technology and devices
  4. Wake up without devices; put devices to bed before retiring to bed
  5. Aim for no screens before double digits (age) at school or home
  6. Use screens together instead of alone and aimlessly
  7. Car time is conversation time
  8. Spouses have one another’s passwords and parents have total access to children’s devices
  9. Sing together rather than letting amplified music take over our lives
  10. Show up in person for big events in life; be fully present at our moments of greatest vulnerability

Andy says when we put away the devices to be prepared for the inevitable boredom that immediately follows.  “Part of the problem is that we solve boredom by using our devices,” says Andy.  “Creativity is only found on the other side of boredom.”  At first, kids will complain - but then they get creative.  The feeling of boredom never goes away but that is what pushes us to be creative.  Andy’s family puts the devices away and turns them off for one hour every day (dinner), one day a week (Sunday) and one week a year, sometimes two during their planned family vacations.  He reminds us that every family is different but that each family should find what works best for them.  “Car time is precious focus time and we often miss it because we are plugged into a device,” says Andy.  “We don’t force conversations in the car but talk about what we did that day.  I found things we do together are better.”  Even singing.  “Some people call it an iPod, but we call it a we-Pod because we use it to enjoy things together.”

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Guest Info


Author of several books, his latest: The Tech-Wise Family, Baker 2017

Former Executive Editor, Christianity Today

His writings have appeared in Time magazine and The Wall Street Journal

Serves on the boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and the council for Christian Colleges and Universities

Wife: Catherine

2 kids, 17 and 20 years old


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