After years of making New Year’s resolutions, I find that those that I manage to keep are the ones that are manageable and involve moderate amounts of change that contribute more towards a lifestyle shift than a complete overhaul. Earlier this week I was asked by The Today Show to share strategies for parents who want to resolve to unplug more during 2013 that got me thinking about digital resolutions.
There’s no doubt that technology is going away anytime soon. The allure of new devices and the ability to be connected is can be appealing and maddening at the same time.
As you begin your new year, think about the possibility of adding any of these seven resolutions to your list to keep you digitally healthy during 2013.
Be conscious of screen time. While I unplugged over the holidays and took a break from blogging, our kids were home and had the opportunity to be more connected to devices and computers which led to some reminders about how iPods, using the HP ENVY 23” TouchSmart AIO to Skype, watching TV, playing an educational game on the computer to practice math facts, and time playing XBox or Wii all counted as screen time. They’re probably thrilled to return to school tomorrow just to stop hearing me say, “If it has a screen, it counts as your day’s screen time.”
Monitor the digital health of your devices. While we’re making resolutions to be more healthy, resolve to check your computer’s health regularly too. Ensure that your antivirus software is running regularly or if the software license has lapsed, purchase a new one or install a free version such as AVG’s Essential Antivirus Protection Free. Tablets and phones are susceptible as well so if you’re purchasing a license, check to see if it can be used on other devices as well to get the most from your money. And yes, Mac users, you should also check your machines too since you’re no longer immune from viruses.
Resolve to back up your data. While it’s helpful to run virus protection, it’s just as important to diligently back up your data. Back up files to an external hard drive, use a cloud based backup such as Carbonite and Mozy that will run regularly to archive your files, and protect your images by moving them to a site like SmugMug or Flickr Pro and use the private album feature.
Check parental controls settings and have a conversation about why they’re important. Chances are new devices made it into your home for the holidays and while they may have parental controls, the default settings may not be right for your family. Do me a favor and open up the parental control settings to ensure that the settings are age appropriate but then also talk to your kids about why they’re important.
Be mindful of publicly shared content. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and other social services make it so easy for us to share. But how much information do you really want to share about yourself or your family? Because once it’s out there, it’s out there for good. Over the holidays we learned that even Mark Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi, wasn’t immune from personal photos being publicly shared when a friend shared a photo that was thought to be private. The Facebook CEO’s sister admonished a friend for digital etiquette via Twitter saying that you should ask someone before posting. While it’s good practice to do so, this very public case involving Zuckerberg is another reminder that anything posted online can be very public.
Resolve to incorporate STEM topics in family activities. Science, technology, engineering, and math may sound uber-geeky but in reality, they’re the things that kids are most interested in thanks to a natural inclination and innate curiosity. Encourage building, mixing, and experimenting in younger kids. Older children will enjoy building on their skills with robotics (my friend Kim Moldofsky, aka The Maker Mom, loves this book called Robotics that she says is great for getting kids started), creating their own video games with the free programming tool called Scratch (I love this Scratch video tutorial series from MIT!), or learning circuitry through Snap Circuits.
Curb the urge to text while driving. We know the horrors of texting and driving but if you still find yourself reaching for your phone and stealing glances, resolve to stop now. It’s not safe. It endangers you, your family, and other drivers. Start by putting your phone in an inconvenient place like the back seat of your car or even the trunk. AT&T customers can use AT&T DriveMode, a free app for Android and Blackberry users that works to limit distractions. Activating the app disables your phone and only allows calls to or from 5 selected individuals while DriveMode is on.
What New Year’s resolutions have you made that you are hoping to keep? Did you include some digital ones?