Why Digital Pictures Are The Scourge Of Modern Parenting

by Virginia Woodruff
Originally Published: 

It’s a trivial concern in the grand scheme of things, but since I got a smartphone several years ago and started snapping/clicking/pressing away, my phone—and then my laptop—has filled up with many, many, many shots of pretty much the same thing: my kids goofing off. Or, kids in things: kids in hats, kids in face paint, kids in sports, kids in school plays. Since their birth, each iteration of the children doing something has been recorded and stored.

The digital pictures on my phone fall into three categories:

1. The Forced Smile

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Our kids are sick of having their picture taken. I always have my “camera” with me and photos are not just for formal occasions anymore—birthdays and the prom—like when we were kids. My kids are asked to pose all the time. If you individually try to stop the shutter happiness, you’re the bad guy. Ever been that one mom at the ballet recital not holding your phone in front of your face? Bad Parent.

2. The Action Shots

© Courtesy Virginia Woodruff

Somehow my kids have learned how to frame-by-frame shots of an action, like sports photographers. Do I save the series of them somersaulting over the couch and make a flip-book of it, like those early films of a horse running? Is it worth the storage space?

3. Kid Selfies

© Courtesy Virginia Woodruff

My kids steal the phone and take hundreds of pictures of themselves and what they’re doing. I end up with blurry faces, mooning shots and, I kid you not, pictures of the TV screen. When my kids are watching a show they like, they take pictures of it. We have reached the level of meta-media—a screen within a screen within a screen.

I don’t always have time to back everything up as the computer gurus admonish. And it’s a dangerous rabbit hole of time suck when I try to move them to print by creating picture books. These book sites seem designed to cause analysis paralysis. Each picture needs a caption, doesn’t it? And which picture of the five almost-identical ones to choose? How many pictures per page? What background should I choose? Which font? On and on, until there are many, many, many half-finished projects in my online file.

Which brings up my greatest fear: What if there’s a digital apocalypse, and I lose all of my photos? If a childhood goes by unrecorded, did it even exist?

What should I do with all these pictures? Deleting works. But it also takes time, and what if, accidentally, in a rush, I delete that one shot that summed up their 5-year-old self? Deleting feels unsentimental, too, but I have to gird myself against too much emotion. In the age of easy pictures, I must remind myself: Easy come, easy go.

Except maybe this one…

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