Digital Photography Is Ruining Childhood

Christie Haskell

A picture from my childhood.
My mom has a baby book of me (though my older sister's has many more photos) and a hallway filled with framed photographs. I've looked at all of them often enough that they're pretty much memorized.

When Mom says, "I've found new pictures!" it's always that they were hidden away in a box, and they commemorate some interesting event or some special moment. There may be only one or two from any given day, especially since every click of the camera was precious, as you had a limited number of photos per roll of film. A roll you paid for and had to pay again to have developed.

Needless to say, the average person wasn't going through 6 rolls of film with 36 exposures each and every time they took their kids to the park -- but that's the equivalent of what I do on an average day outdoors with my kids; however, I'm using my digital camera.

I read somewhere recently (can anyone remind me where?) the opinion that taking too many pictures ruins the mystery of childhood; that childhood pictures are made so special partially due to the fact that there is such a limited amount of them. There was a point as well about how too much documentation and sharing of photos deprived a child of any privacy rights as they grew up as well.

I have 80 pictures (after I deleted ones that I didn't like or were blurry) from a two-hour Le Leche League potluck at a playground a couple weeks ago. Our trip to the zoo? One hundred thirty-seven pictures. So, if the argument is true, my kids' childhood mystery is forever destroyed.

I'm of the belief personally that the "mystery" argument is pretty silly, and it hasn't made me pause for even a second when I go to hit that "shutter" button. After all, there are so many things that have happened in my life that I would have loved to have seen pictures of, and if home movies from my childhood weren't two hours on a VHS cassette, but little 30-second to 5-minute clips like a lot of cameras are capable of now, I'd probably watch them a lot more often -- I think most people would. I also don't think more pictures -- or the sharing of them -- would really have impacted my life in any way that is substantial enough to even provide an argument.

But at the same time, there is a very obvious downside to digital photography -- no prints. You have to actually go out of your way and, again, pay money to have physical pictures in your hands.

Frankly, I'm cheap and lazy, and feel terrible that the most recent pictures on my wall of Rowan, who is 6, are from the professional photo shoot I had done of him for his first birthday. Yeah. I'm seriously behind. His baby book? One professional photo from his 2-month shoot in the slot in the cover ... and that's it. It's entirely empty.

Not to mention I've only once -- count that, ONCE -- mailed physical photographs of my children to a relative. Yikes. In fact, that one time is the only time I've even made prints. With websites like MPix and even Wal-Mart and Walgreens (who Shutterfly contracts to), you don't even necessarily have to leave your home to have frameable, physical prints. It does cost money though, and you do get what you pay for.

For my technology-advanced family members, email and Facebook are sufficient -- my mom can even order photos of mine she likes directly from my Photobucket account. For my technologically paranoid grandmother, we have a Presto machine that we can email or even text photos to and it prints them out for her (this machine even prints out letters, if you'd prefer to type something and send it to someone without email as well).

At some point, I think I'll make a little more effort to get some prints done -- after all, with the aid of digital photography, my thousands of pictures, and basic free editing programs, I've got some fantastic pictures that are totally frame-worthy, even if I'm only an amateur in photography.

But then I actually have to get around to hanging them up on the walls ...

Do you print photos or maintain a baby book? Do you think you can take too many pictures?


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