Are We Ruining Our Children's Psyches With Copious Digital Photos? (No.)


Have you ever met any babies? They’re so completely self-involved. Everything is about them—their wants and their needs—all the fucking time, so it’s no wonder that they’re so taken with their own images, particularly the countless boring photos their parents take of them on their smart phones, tablets and digital cameras. But could growing up in a world full of instant-self-slideshow access be developmentally detrimental?

David Zweig, a blogger at the New York Times‘ parenting blog Motherlode, thinks so. Writing about his 3-year-old daughter’s obsession with looking at family photos on his phone or computer, he worries that this compulsion “may hasten her self-consciousness to a degree that’s no longer constructive,” and that “this is a shame because a lack of self-awareness is part of what makes youth so precious.”

And while I agree that kids’ lack of self-awareness is what makes them particularly awesome (you simply don’t meet many adults who freak the fuck out over bubbles or have a disproportionate physical reaction to seeing a pigeon walk in a circle), I also don’t think that too many pictures could ever be a bad thing. In fact, my own daughter’s fixation with her own image—she kisses her reflection in the mirror and then smiles—is a testament to just how un-self-aware she is.

I mean, as adults, we’re conditioned to avoid appearing so ridiculously narcissistic as to gleefully scroll through photos of ourselves in the presence of others. For example, when someone takes a group picture at a party with their phone and they pass it around to everyone for a look, it’s never for the desirable amount of time that one would need to properly zoom in and dissect their appearance. It’s very quick, 1, 2, 3. It would be embarrassing to linger on a photo of yourself. That’s something we’re supposed to do privately—like touching ourselves or pooping or picking our noses or listening to “Call Me Maybe,” months and months after it was briefly “cool.”

These are all things that my daughter shamelessly does in front of other people. Because she’s not an adult. Because she hasn’t learned, yet, that she should be embarrassed by her bodily functions, or liking a song that’s passe, or enjoying looking at herself. I’d like to think that being so taken with herself, so pleased with what she sees in the mirror or on my iPhone photo stream, is something that will last forever.

But it probably won’t. She’s a girl. And women tend to have a pretty steep learning curve when it comes to not liking the way we look. So I encourage my daughter’s digital image obsession, and even ask her to point out the “beautiful girl” in the picture, hoping that she’ll always remember who that is.

Image via Irina Pestova/Shutterstock

Why We Should Take Fewer Pictures of Our Children [NYT]

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