As humans, technology and in particular social media has brought is into an entirely new space. One where most information is literally at our fingertips and the concept of privacy has become a lot more fluid. As parents and care-givers, it presents us with additional benefits and challenges. Baby’s first steps can be captured in real time and uploaded to share with family and friends within seconds. We can share and store milestones in a whole new way – while we can look back at select moments of our own childhoods through the dog-eared pages of photo albums, our children are going to have clouds full of images and videos that document every stage of their lives. What we have to try to do is strike that fragile balance between making memories and recording them.
Research tells us that babies as young as 10 months old respond to camera phones; if they are playing and called to ‘look at Mommy’, they will most likely stop what they are doing and perform for the camera. Their free-play can be continuously interrupted in this way because we put ourselves under such pressure to capture the moment. Think about the options: we can grab the phone and take (another) picture or we could get down on the floor and play with our baby. When it comes to a cuddle and some fun playtime Vs a face behind a phone, guess which has the more lasting impact?
Watching children at play reminds us of how uninhibited they are. Why walk in a straight line when you can jump, squat or dance! Yet, without realising it, we can interrupt that natural movement and energy multiple times a day when we tell our children to ‘stand still’, ‘look at me’ or ‘do it again for the camera’. Of course that’s ok when we want to capture a special moment, but when we’re doing it regularly – and so are grandparents, friends, crèches and schools – that adds up to a whole lot of interrupted play. Just like adults, children need their own space.
Early childhood memories of seaside trips are generally associated with smells – salt, candy floss, sunscreen etc. – or textures such as sand and cold water. Those are powerful lifelong associations that have nothing to do with photographs. This summer, maybe set yourself some new boundaries; only take a photo of your child’s sandcastle if you helped her build it, only take a picture of her if you’re in it together. Images will stay stored in a cloud somewhere, real memories will imprint on your child forever.