We jokingly called this past summer The Summer of Life-Skills. It was a make-up summer, one in which I determined to teach my kids a bazillion things they might need to know as adults—practical lessons, like How to Ride the City Bus, or How to Order Your Own Italian Soda. For much of the pandemic, my daughters were able to attend their small school in person, and I’m grateful for that. But even so, we continue to find little residual burdens the pandemic has laid upon our daughters. So many things were closed for so long that our girls hardly remembered how to navigate them, and with my husband working from home, it just wasn’t necessary for me to bring them along with me on errands like grocery shopping or each other’s dental appointments. We were all a little rusty when it came to interacting with the world.
Thus, Our Summer of Life Skills. We invented tasks that would send the older girls to the grocery store alone because we, I don’t know, urgently needed a half-dozen doughnuts. We rode the bus downtown throughout the summer, much to the amusement of our route’s regular driver. Imagine: me and four girls, from fourteen to six, filing on board and filling the back seats. The older girls took summer jobs babysitting and cracking eggs at our favorite bakery.
It was a crash course in Being Out in the World and Talking to Adults Who Are Not Your Parents or Teachers. In June, the girls were nervous about it. By August, they were talking to the librarian like it was no big deal and ordering their own ice cream cones. Success!
But now, our next phase of Life Skills is upon us. Our oldest daughter wants to know: when can she have her own phone? And our answer has always been, “Way after you think you should.” But good gravy, now she’s in high school and her best friend has moved across the country and we’ve discovered internet-free phones, so we’ve been thinking about it. Slowly, but we’re thinking about it.
And in the spirit of that, I picked up Amy Crouch’s My Tech-Wise Life, which, like her father’s book The Tech-Wise Family, is brilliant. Full of helpful research and thoughtful insights, My Tech-Wise Life is written by a young adult for young adults. After all, her generation’s experience with technology is profoundly different than that of their parents: we old-timers remember a time before the internet, but many of our children have been on the internet since back when they were the adorable, dimply stars of their parents’ Facebook accounts.
And so Amy Crouch brings a valuable voice to the conversation about technology. She brings the perspective of her family, and the way they approached technology, as well as her own experience growing up with it. Each chapter ends with a letter from her dad, Andy Crouch, written to her. These letters are insightful, moving, and full of grace. Between the two of them, they provide a comprehensive, practical way of viewing and using technology—which is, I think, one of the toughest life skills to learn these days.
So, will we get our daughter a phone soon? That’s still under discussion. But when we do, we plan to give her a copy of this book along with it.
Worth noting: This book includes a chapter on pornography, as it should. While not graphic, it does discuss the subject at length and in depth, so I’d encourage you to pre-read at least that chapter before handing this book to your teen. But really, the whole book is a great read for parents as well as teens.
My Tech-Wise Life: Growing Up and Making Choices in a World of Devices
Amy Crouch & Andy Crouch (2020)