As the use of mobile phones has spread throughout societies all over the world, interventions that seek to change people’s lives for the better have experimented with ways to integrate texting to reach more people and deliver messages integral to those interventions. This recent development includes attempts by responsible fatherhood interventions to integrate texting.
Uses of Texting
National Fatherhood Initiative® (NFI) has followed the use of texting in responsible fatherhood interventions to determine how users of its programs, such as 24/7 Dad®, can use texting to enhance their effectiveness. This use has focused on three primary objectives.
- Reinforce content taught in programs that serve dads.
- Increase retention of dads in programs.
- Provide ongoing support to dads so that they feel a stronger connection to the organization, program, and staff.
Until recently, NFI has only been able to gather examples of how fatherhood practitioners—including those who use our programs—have used texting for these and other objectives. Unfortunately, these examples have not included research on the effectiveness of texting.
Research on Texting
Recently, however, research on the use of texting in responsible fatherhood interventions has started to emerge. Most notable are four projects funded by the Fatherhood Research and Practice Network (FRPN), an effort of the federal government to build the evidence base for responsible fatherhood interventions and the capacity of organizations to evaluate their efforts to serve dads.
These four projects are among the first in the nation to evaluate the use of texting in responsible fatherhood interventions. FRPN showcased the results of one of these evaluations, which included dads who participated in 24/7 Dad®, during a webinar in October 2016. FRPN showcased the other three evaluations during a webinar in June 2019. One of those evaluations was of an intervention implemented in an organization that uses 24/7 Dad®. (Click here to watch the 2016 webinar and download the slide deck. Click here to watch the 2019 webinar and to download the slide deck.)
All four of the interventions used texting to increase engagement through delivery of program content. One of the interventions also sought to use texting to increase program retention. These evaluations did not find support for the use of texting to increase engagement or retention. They did find, however, that texting can be an effective tool for customer service. Dads appreciated receiving texts because they saw them as supportive of their role as a dad and kept them connected to the program and staff. That’s customer service.
Should you use texting for anything other than customer service? Yes. Because the research on the applications of texting in responsible fatherhood interventions is in its infancy, it’s possible that the use of texting can be improved so that it can, for example, increase engagement through the delivery of program content and increase retention. Moreover, the outcome of improved customer service in all four interventions evaluated resulted from attempts to deliver content and increase retention. So, at the very least, use texting to create an even stronger environment of support for dads’ role in their families and connection of dads to your organization, father-serving effort, and staff.
Do you use texting in your fatherhood program or other father-serving effort?
If so, what are your objectives for the use of texting?