Small children usually need punishments and rewards to help them acquire virtue and self-control. Adults take ownership of their lives, shaping themselves by the repetition of good acts and avoiding the near occasions of unhealthy and sinful behavior. To acquire digital virtue, start with setting goals for yourself (and your children), such as:
• how much time you will spend on digital devices, screens, apps;
• where you will and will not use your digital devices;
• what destructive behavior you wish to eliminate: bullying or being bullied, porn, comparing your life (body, possessions, vacation…) with that of others.
Try to visualize how a virtuous person would live with digital technology. How would Jesus use digital technology if he grew up in our age? Review “Purposes of the Internet and Electronic Devices” and consider how Jesus would and would not use tools to communicate, to teach, and to develop healthy relationships.
This doesn’t mean we must eliminate all digital activity in our life: remember, how the Pharisees criticized Jesus because he “partied” with friends… but virtuously:
“John the Baptist came eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man comes eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’” (Luke 7:33-35).
The first thing is to identify the goal (the type of virtuous behavior you want to achieve), do the same with technology, and then make it “S.M.A.R.T.” (an acronym used in business for making action strategies to goals achievable).
“S.M.A.R.T.” stands for:
• Strategic: with a specific action needed to achieve the goal.
• Measurable: where everyone can see that you achieved your milestone or goal.
• Achievable: our goals should push us, but always within reach.
• Relevant: does this goal lead me to my overall goal of holiness and getting to heaven.
• Time-bound: create a date or deadline to achieve this goal.
An example might help. Suppose we want to lose weight and get in better physical shape. That is good, but a bit abstract. What do we do? To turn this into a S.M.A.R.T. goal we need to start with a strategic action verb: “I will exercise more.” Better yet, make the exercise even more specific: “I will swim.” Then make it measurable: “I will swim four times per week for 30 minutes.”
Now make sure it is achievable. Perhaps 30 minutes is too long at the beginning, so we’ll make it achievable by starting off with 10 minutes of swimming and extending that time by 5 minutes every two weeks. This is also relevant to the overall goal of losing weight and getting in better shape. A time-bound deadline will make this goal SMART:
“I will swim four times per week, beginning with 10 minutes each time and increasing it by 5 minutes every two weeks. I will keep track of this and my weight each week for the next 6 months.”
Let’s think of some SMART goals that we can set to acquire the digital virtue we all need. For example, suppose we wish to stop having digital devices dominate us so much. We could set a SMART goal:
“I will turn off all Notifications, Alerts, Badges, and Banners, and after one week allow myself to turn on one if needed. I will review with my friend/spouse/parent every month.”
“I will de-clutter my home screens, deleting apps that I don’t need. I will reduce the number to 20 the first week, to 15 the second week, and to 10 by the third week.”
Entrust your efforts to Our Lady who encourages you and me to grow in virtue as her children and as virtuous children of God.