As the old saying goes – Fail to plan, plan to fail

Even before the birth of your child, you might have begun thinking about your parenting goals.

Often these relate to their sleep, nutrition and developmental milestones. As a new parent, you might be aiming for them to be happy and healthy in the long term or have specific goals like clapping their hands by 9 months and being able to play the piano by the age of 5.  

Perhaps you’ve set your own goal to exercise more post giving birth, or you want to commit to having family time once a week. But what about digital technology and the impact on today’s family life?

Parenting goals are what you want to accomplish in your parenting. They keep you on track and help you to focus on the essential things that will bring you closer to shaping you and your child’s lives. 

Should we include technology into our goals and vision as parents? Of course, we should!  

Digital technology (smartphones, tablets or the internet), impacts every facet of our daily lives and ultimately shape our experiences in the world – and we haven’t entered the Metaverse…yet!

Having digital parenting goals may not seem necessary when your child is very young, but with more and more technology now geared towards children aged under two, such as “Baby TV” and “baby friendly apps, it’s hard to avoid.

In fact, thinking about tech goals early on, will help you to make more intentional decisions further down the line when your child gets older. Parents often tell me they regret giving their child a smartphone so young. When I ask about what their goals or vision was regarding tech use, they admitted they didn’t have any.

Despite digital technology being everywhere, digital parenting goals are sadly often overlooked. As offline and online worlds blur into each other, the relationship with technology has to be included as part of our goals for our parenting.  Without these goals we can get easily sidetracked and making uninformed decisions which don’t align with our values. 

The role of digital technology in the home

Our guess is that, if you are reading this article, you’ve also recognised that there is a need in your own family to make some steps to ensure technology plays a positive role in your home.

The first step is to start with your goals and vision overall – ask questions like:

  • What is it you want for your children?
  • What do you hold as being important as a parent?
  • What kind of qualities would you like your children to hold?
  • What values are important to you as a family?
  • How do you want your family life to be? 

Once you have thought about your overarching values and vision, you can then see how technology could align with those values or get in the way. For example if your values are having plenty of “family time”, you might consider how allowing smartphones at meal times impacts that value.

You can then set yourself the goal of only allowing smartphone use outside of mealtimes. During mealtimes, phones are put aside out of sight for the WHOLE family.

It’s also a good idea to come up with your vision for technology and how you see it playing a part in your children’s lives. Ask yourself questions like:

  • “How much technology am I comfortable with them having?”
  • “How much time in the day do I want them to be on screens?”
  • “How does this support / hinder /impact them?”

Write these down and refer to them regularly, they will help keep you on track.   

Wondering what a “digital parenting” goal might sound like? Here are a few examples to get you thinking about some of your own:

  • I would like to model the use of responsible technology for my children by banning social media use during meal times or during play time together.  
  • I want to remove non-educational TV from Monday- Friday, allowing 2 hours of entertainment-based TV at the weekends only. 
  • I want my child to grow up prioritising offline experiences by providing them with non-screen-related hobbies and interests from an early age and setting an example by reducing the time I spend on my own personal device.  

It’s always a good idea to have your goals written out and left in a place visible for you to be reminded of them, e.g. pinned on the fridge or used as a screensaver.

Accomplishing your goals  

Productivity experts tell us that writing our goals down increases our chance of accomplishing them by as much as 50%. It also encourages us to review our plans to ensure they are still relevant and attainable. Since your child will grow up quickly in line with the rapidly changing  world of tech, these may need to be adjusted frequently.

When your child is a little older, you can start working together to develop digital goals for the family unit – that way your child has a say and the accountability is shared, making it more likely to achieve your collective goals.    

Without goals or vision there are no priorities or frameworks to help guide you. You’ll go just end up going with the flow where usage may become unintentional and technology controls your child’s and family life rather than the other way around.

If you haven’t thought about how technology can enhance or hinder your child’s development, how will you know if your decisions align with your values?

Parenting can be overwhelming at the best of times, so with new technologies constantly emerging on a daily basis at such a speed, it can be all consuming. 

Having thought about your digital parenting goals and making them part of parenting discussions ahead of time, will help you to plan better and make smarter decisions in the long run.

There’s no escaping the fact that technology will continue to play an important role in all our lives, whether we like it or not. So isn’t it time to start considering how we can shape that to be within our own family life?