How to Binge Watch Like a Believer

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The acclaimed cultural critic Andy Crouch says parents, not kids, are the key to a tech-wise family.

According to a recent Barna study, 78 percent of parents believe they have a more complicated job in raising their kids today than previous generations—primarily because they have the added responsibility of monitoring their children’s technology use. Andy Crouch wrote his recent book The Tech-Wise Family: Everyday Steps for Putting Technology in Its Proper Place to advise parents about technology’s “proper place” in their home. “There is tremendous, desperate demand for help on this front,” says Crouch of contemporary technology and the family. “Everyone feels like there’s a problem.”

Crouch spoke recently with CT about Internet pornography (and why filters aren’t enough), the future of biologically engineered human beings, and why developing character virtues in your kids is more important than monitoring screen minutes.

Why talk about technology in the context of the family?

Whenever you raise a criticism about technology, people will commonly say, “Well, technology can be used for good or for bad.” But I think more interesting questions are, “What is technology good for?” and “What is technology bad for?” Technology is good for lots of things. But what it is not good for—and perhaps what it is actively bad for—is the formation of persons. And where are people formed most intensively? For all of us, that is in the context of family. That’s where the dangers and limitations of technology become most evident. I’m much less concerned about how we use technology when we’re waiting in a line at the airport, even though I don’t deny that there is something formative (and de-formative) about needing my screen to distract me when I feel the least soupçon of boredom. But that is not as critical as [the family context].

In your book, you certainly don’t suggest that people become Amish. In fact, some might even say you’ve been overly optimistic about technology.

My great anxiety about the book was that people were going to get into the book and think, “This is too radical, and my family will never be able to do this.” Truthfully, I did not want this book to become so idealistic, so purist, that it became detached from the reality of my life and my family’s life. We use all of this stuff.

I do think there are genuinely human ways to use technology. But this is only true if they are grounded in the deeper ways of being human that develop wisdom and character. What I do believe will be necessary (and this is an idea I borrow from philosopher Albert Borgmann) is asceticism. Ascetics—for the sake of something deeper or higher—deny themselves certain things they could have, not because they are categorically bad, but because they want a deeper, better life. If we are serious about our formation as persons, we have no choice but to be ascetics.

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Jen Pollock Michel