Have Kids? Worry about Technology? Read this for them: When Tech Hurts, Community Heals

Watching your children turn into teenagers is so bittersweet. They’re still yours, yet they are also becoming their own. And they’re trying to grow up as technology reshapes every corner of our homes and our lives, including what it means to be a kid. Andy Crouch is an author and speaker whose book The Tech-Wise Family has been meaningful to so many families. He’s watched his own kids grow up, and now his daughter Amy—20 years old, off to college, looking back on her childhood—has written her own book, My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices. It’s heartening, sometimes heart-breaking, beautiful, practical, and incredibly encouraging. It will be such a good book for kids to read on their own, and for parents and kids to read together. Do you want to know what’s happening in your children’s hearts and minds as they try to make sense of social media and devices? Do you want them to hear from one of their own peers who’s made some good choices, made some mistakes, and fallen and been picked up by grace and mercy? Here’s part of her story. It’s a grace to welcome Amy to the farm’s front porch today…

guest post by Amy Crouch

As I scrolled through the Instagram photos, I felt my stomach churn. The first one was terrible—did my smile look that awkward in real life?

Then another; my nose seemed to take up half my face. And in another one, my expression was okay, but what on earth was I doing with my arm? I flicked through photo after photo, and I started to panic.

The pictures had just rolled in from one of my high school dances, and they were full of smart suits and glittering dresses. Unlike me, my friends all looked perfect.

Of course, my friends all started to post on Instagram and spammed our group chat with caption ideas and gushing compliments. As they went on, I started to get more and more upset. I didn’t want anyone to see my photos ever.

For the next few days, I kept choking up every time I opened my Instagram feed and saw other people’s pictures. I was sobbing in bed and wallowing in newfound despair over flaws I didn’t even know I had.

And even as I was sniffling into a tissue, I was wondering, What on earth is wrong with me? It’s just a few bad photos, right? Why couldn’t I just shrug this off?

Even now, I can’t totally answer those questions. But I can say something definitive about this moment: it’s not unusual.

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Joy Prouty

Now, I’m not saying that everyone has cried over a bad picture. But whatever the cause, I know we’ve all been gripped by this fear that we aren’t good enough. Even if we think of ourselves as confident, healthy people, we have sudden moments of terror that we’ll never measure up to our friends or our family—or our enemies.

Now, it’s not like insecurity was invented in the twenty-first century. Yet my generation is especially unlucky. We happen to live in one of the worst possible times and places to be insecure—a time when we’re surrounded by tech companies that make their money and grab our attention by telling us that our lives aren’t enough.

Survey data shows that for almost half of American teens (44 percent), seeing other people’s posts online makes us feel like our lives don’t match up—like our friends’ lives are better than ours.

What do we do about this—and the myriad other puzzles and predicaments tech creates? Technology isn’t going to magically disappear from the face of the earth, and we don’t want it to. Our phones and the internet often seem to improve our lives, and especially so during the covid-19 pandemic.

Like everything in our lives, tech both helps and hurts us. So how can we appreciate the help but avoid the hurt?

When my brother and I were growing up, my parents took several steps to address tech, aiming for what my dad called a “tech-wise family.” We didn’t have a TV or video games as kids; I didn’t have a smartphone until high school and had no social media until I was about fifteen.

This upbringing spared me from some of the deepest dangers of tech—and continues to shape my life today.

But as I grew up, I couldn’t rely only on my parents’ instructions. I had to figure out for myself what my tech-wise life would mean. I made plenty of mistakes along the way, which brings us back to me crying in my bedroom over Instagram.

Remember the 44% of teens who say social media makes them feel worse about their lives? In that moment, I was one of them.

So, what do we do when these seemingly tiny moments tear open our scars?

Well, tech promises plenty of ways to help.

And when I was first in pain, I tried to reach out with tech. I texted my friends right away, and they responded kindly.

But the words on my screen weren’t enough. I was still alone in my room on my phone. I wasn’t comforted.

Then I tried the endless stream of entertainment available on my phone. But entertainment only distracted me from my pain. I wasn’t healed.

That weekend reminded me that when our daily troubles and lurking fears overwhelm us, tech can’t save us.

You and I—we are broken, ragged people. We can’t be healed by technology’s seamless flow. I believe that we need fellowship with our broken, ragged friends.

At some point during that painful weekend, I remembered that tech couldn’t fix me. So I sent my youth pastor, Bethany, a text for help. I didn’t say much, I just told her I was having a hard time and needed some love. We went to dinner together, and I told her about what had engulfed me.

She embraced me, she prayed with me, and she told me about the bad photos of her own she had cringed over—and the scars that her self-doubts had left.

We talked and wept and broke bread together.

And at some beautifully invisible moment, we both just started to laugh. We laughed because we suddenly saw the smallness of these insecurities; even the very worst pain our doubts put us through was nothing compared to the light and love of God.

Three hours after I had been sobbing on my bed, broken by my ugly insecurities, I went home with a joyful heart full of the peace of community.

Please don’t let self-doubt paralyze you.

When you hate the skin you’re in, don’t gloss over it—share in person. Pray with your friends or your family. Cry together, laugh together, and remember who you truly are.

This is the relief you cannot get from kind texts or viral videos or games.

It’s the relief you feel when you bare your wounds to someone else, and they reach out to embrace you.

Through love, not tech, we will find peace.

 

Amy Crouch is the author of My Tech-Wise Life and a junior at Cornell studying linguistics and English (and anything else she can fit into her schedule). 

In My Tech-Wise Life, Andy and Amy share their father-daughter stories to encourage teens and young adults to reevaluate their relationship with technology, finding meaning and wonder in the real world.

November 16 is the last day to preorder My Tech-Wise Life and get the audiobook FREE, along with other bonuses! After you buy the book from your favorite retailer, come claim your free bonuses by going here! 

When we’re wise about how we use our devices, we can get more–more joy, more connection, more out of lifeTech shouldn’t get in the way of a life worth living. Let’s get tech-wise.

[ Our humble thanks to Baker for their partnership in today’s devotion ]