As parents, we want to capture all of our children’s beautiful moments. But are we overdoing it and taking too many photos? Is it time to put down the camera and be in the moment, rather than photograph it? (Getty)
My husband and I have a collection of tens of thousands of digital images. Most of these chronicle the lives of our three children. The first step. The first day of kindergarten. A summer weekend in Tahoe. an Easter egg hunt, actually many egg hunts. Of course, we took more photos of our first child and we’ve been less camera happy with our third, but nonetheless, like most modern-day parents, we have an unwieldy number of image files.
The images are stored on a series of external drives and backup drives and they’re scattered about Facebook and Instagram and on various phones. We’ve printed a select few and stuck them in frames. My husband features a couple dozen on his computer’s screen saver. Every Christmas we put together a collection of that year’s best images in a photo book. We give copies to grandparents and keep one for ourselves. But for the most part, the photos are a digital mess and present an overwhelming organizational challenge. Who has time to edit, tag and file away all of these photos? Who has time to sort through 500 pics just from Christmas morning?
Yet still we keep on snapping, asking our kids to pose, smile, stop whatever they’re doing to take a look into the camera. Or sometimes we go for the candid.
Is all of this posing and capturing a good thing?
Some experts are saying that our kids are spending too much time in front of the camera and, to put it bluntly, parents are leading our kids to be insecure and narcissistic. While our parents might have snapped one photo of the kids smirking in front of the decorated Christmas tree, today’s parents are conducting full-on photo shoots, snapping endless pictures until they can get all of the kids to give them that perfect smile. Because, well, why not? Digital photos are free. With film, you took fewer photos because you were paying for them. You had to buy the film and then go to the trouble of getting them developed.
These overblown photo shoots can make kids feel more important than they really are, Alain Morin, an associate psychology professor at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, told Today Moms.
Morin also told Today that research shows the increase in photo taking is making kids feel overly self-aware and insecure.
“The use of self-focusing stimuli, a mirror, a picture, a camera,” he says, “anything that induces awareness for others [makes] you start thinking about who you are. And, you think about your shortcomings.
“When people are exceedingly self-focused, they self-critique a lot and feel bad a lot.”
I can see how this happens. On a recent beach vacation, my husband pulled out the camera when the kids were playing in the waves. He shot for a good 20 or 30 minutes, trying to get that photo album-worthy pic for the grandparents. Later that night, we transferred the hundred or so photos onto our laptop and were looking through them. My 10-year-old daughter walked over and started making comments about herself in the photos.
“My face looks funny in that one.”
“I don’t like my hair.”
And then she made a comment about the size of her thighs. My little girl who swims laps four days a week on a team and has a body that most anyone would die for was criticizing her body? I shooed her away from the computer and later gave her an important talk about self esteem.
Before logging off, I opted to email the grandparents a humorous image of the two sisters making goofy faces, brother in the back, smiling ridiculously and giving the girls bunny ears. It was that sort of awkward family photo that we would have been more likely to get if we were shooting with film. We would have become fed up with the “misbehaving” children and turned off the camera. We wouldn’t have wasted the film to capture the ideal moment.
The next day, when we went to the beach, I pulled the camera from the backpack.
“Let’s leave it at home today,” I told my husband.
And what I found is that my husband spent the afternoon swimming in the ocean with the kids and being in the moment, rather than stepping back and trying to capture it, photograph it, preserve it.