Setting a digital parenting goal for the new year

Like most of us, I’ve been thinking a lot about the new year. I’ve abandoned “resolutions” because they are a little too flaky for me. (Oh, and because I’ve never been successful with any that I’ve made.)  

Setting a Digital Parenting Goal for the New Year

Instead, I prefer to set goals for the new year and follow them up with a short list of very specific, measurable actions to move toward those goals.

For example, I have a “goal” to get healthier this year. That’s great, but it’s not specific or measurable. The actions I’ve associated with the goal are things like:

  • Lose (a certain number of) pounds by June 1st
  • Limit eating out to one time per week (and make healthy choices when doing so)
  • Exercise at least 20 minutes, four times a week.

I have other actions, too, but you get the idea. I track all this progress using notebooks, apps, or spreadsheets. (Yes, I’m a dork.)

Without a specific plan of action–every guru will tell us–no goal will get accomplished.

Setting a Digital Parenting Goal

What goals have you set this year? My guess is they are the usual ones (eat healthier, read more, take up a hobby, organize something, etc.) Hopefully, you’ve set the goal and listed specific, measurable actions to achieve them.

But what parenting goals have you set? I have to admit, I’ve often overlooked this and not treated it like other goals. I’d just tell myself, I’ll be a better dad this year. That’s not measurable or specific. It’s not going to happen unless I treat it like my other important areas of focus.

“Spend more time with my kids” needs to be followed with how much time and when will this happen.

My guess is that, if you are a reader of ParentingDigital, you’ve also recognized that there is a need in your own family for making some positive changes in the role technology plays in your home.

Wondering what a “digital parenting” goal might sound like? Here are a few to get you started. (Some of these are on my own list, in some form.)

Model responsible technology use to my children

Since good digital behavior always starts with us, we could:

  • Set clear guidelines about when we will and won’t go online.
  • Ban social media while the kids are in the same room or space with us (room, car, etc.).
  • Reduce our own social media and surfing use by half.

Deliberately teach digital citizenship to them

Instead of simply reacting to problems as they come up, we can be proactive about dealing with technology.

  • Start a weekly question at dinner about technology.
  • Create a detailed family technology plan or contract, and involve the kids in the planning when appropriate.
  • Work with them closely on their homework to guide them in finding and using online information quickly and ethically.

Better monitor their online time

The best monitoring app is communication. Still, there are some other actions we can take this year to make their tech time more positive.

  • Do a complete audit of the filtering and parenting settings on all devices and wifi in the house.
  • Re-establish clear limits on “screen time”…and the criteria for earning it during the week.
  • Require that half their screen time be in “creative” mode, not consumer mode. (Create a list of apps and sites that count as creative activities.)

You don’t have to set this many digital parenting goals, of course. But you should–in the pile of other resolutions you may have made–have at least one goal that focuses on how you will be a more deliberate digital parent this year.

Getting It Done

Of course, the fear with setting these kinds of goals is that we will never achieve them. Fortunately, there are a few key things we can do to put the odds ever in our favor.

Collaborate

Work with your spouse to share in the goal-setting process so you are on the same page. You will both be working all year to accomplish this, after all. For single parents, make yourself accountable to another parent or family member. Have them check in with you on a regular basis to see how you are progressing.

Make them SMART

Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-bound.

Write them out

Productivity experts tell us that writing our goals down (on paper, on a screen, wherever) increases our chance of accomplishing the goal by as much as 50%. It also gives us something concrete to review on a regular basis. Which leads to…

Review them often

Incorporate your digital parenting goal(s) into your family technology plan, or review them together as part of a weekly or monthly family meeting. At the very least, you should review them personally, along with your other annual goals. Keep them front-of-mind.

Celebrate your wins

Every couple months, review your goals and give yourself a pat on the back for all the ways you met the goal or moved toward completion, even the little wins. (Yay, I didn’t go on Facebook even once this week while my kids were in the same room! Woohoo, I stuck to my guns and only allowed 30 minutes of screen time each evening this week!) Write those wins down, too.

Looking Ahead

Why, in the middle of all the other things you hope to accomplish this year, would you want to add yet another goal?

We know that “what gets measured, gets improved.” We can keep saying “Yeah, I should really do something different about the way we use tech in our house,” but nothing will change, will it? Any more than saying “Yeah, I should really get in shape…”

So, here’s to making this year the year those positive changes really happen.

You with me? Because this year is going to be awesome!

Your turn: What will your digital parenting goal be this year? I encourage you to add yours in the comments below.

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