I recently gave a presentation as part of Trinity's Wednesday evening teaching series. It was about becoming tech-wise. I summarized and adapted some of the content of Andy Crouch's excellent new book, The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place.
We are addicted to tech. Why are people so tied to their cell phones? Everywhere you look it is the same: head down, face glowing. What is so interesting about these "glowing rectangles" (to borrow a phrase from Crouch)? Technology appeals to us on a deeper level, a soul level, and it tempts us there.
Technology presents to us certain temptations that are ancient. Satan countered Eve and tempted her in Genesis 3:4-5, "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.'”
Technology gives us the false promise of knowledge. We can be in the know. We can be, as it were, like God who is omniscient. Technology gives us a level of connection with the world and access to information that makes us god-like. Any trivia question can be answered and any debate over facts can now instantaneously be solved. You will never be without your favorite product or get lost again. Just. Google. It.
Technology also gives us the false promise of presence. We can be everywhere, just like God who is omnipresent. This too is part of the original temptation in Genesis 3:4-5. The connection with other parts of the world and instantaneous communication gives us a seeming omnipresence which appeals to our soul. But as it turns out, we were not meant to know everything that is happening in the world at the same time. Thus, you see a rise in anxiety in our society because we are now connected to world happenings that make no appreciable difference in our daily life.
Technology also gives us a means to make a name for ourselves. Again the Bible shows us this temptation is very ancient with the Tower of Babel in Genesis 11:4, "let us make a name for ourselves." Making a name for ourselves is often what is happening when people post social media content. This can be innocent or sinister. We live in an age where criminals utilize Facebook Live to broadcast crimes in an attempt to make a name for themselves. Terrorists regularly posts videos on YouTube to communicate their message.
What do we do? Crouch advises us to put technology in its proper place. Technology will not help us with this. Cell phones are designed to beep and buzz and to get our attention. It is hard to look away from a TV that is switching camera angles every 2 seconds. Putting technology in its proper place is about us using technology, rather than technology using us.
Here are six steps that help put technology in its proper place, some are adapted from the book Tech-Wise and some are my own:
1. Wake up before your device and put your device to bed before you go to bed. My favorite advice is to not check your phone first thing in the morning or make your phone the last thing you do at night. If we would look up from our phones for a moment, we will find that God has something better for us.
2. Parents model technology in its proper place. What kind of device usage are you modeling for your children? Are you always checking your phone? Are you texting and driving? Model to your children how you want them to use technology.
3. Make car time and dinner time conversation time. Riding in a car puts you in close proximity to others. Use the time for connection. No phones. No devices. No earbuds. Actual conversation and, of course, the license plate game. Very soon your kids will be driving themselves and you won't have as much connection time with them. Use car time and dinner time as uninterrupted connection time.
4. Wait on a phone until your child is at least 14. Tell your children you are the weirdest and meanest parents ever. Does a child really have the maturity to handle avoiding pornography on the internet when adults don't? Get a so-called dumb phone if you must be in touch with your child. Take steps to filter adult content and protect your children. All filter's can be defeated or worked around. A robust Christian world and life view is not only the best internet filter, it is the best life filter.
5. Total access to spouse’s and children’s phones and devices. Know everyone's passcode and check the phone regularly for friend problems, cyberbullying, and pornography. "You don't trust me!" will be the complaint. "I trust you but I don't trust the internet," is a good answer.
6. Show up for life. Be fully present and engaged in what you are doing. Deathbed quote: “I wish I checked Facebook more often,” said no one ever. The latest viral video pales in comparison to real life.
What ideas do you have? What has worked for you? Feel free to comment below. Technology is here to stay and it is changing all of us--not always for the better. Putting technology in its proper place is challenging and we need each other's help to do it.