Did you know that children 8 and younger spend an average of 2 hours and 19 minutes a day in front of a screen? That alarming statistic comes from this article which cites more studies that will make you question how you much screen-time you give your children.
Along with my own personal instinct, it's articles like this that have motivated me to make a bold decision for my kids' summer this year. We've decided to go screen-free for the summer of 2018 (and maybe longer...but....baby steps). I'll explain what that entails in a moment, but first I'll tell you why.
As a mother and artist, I value opportunities that boost creativity in my children. I have 4 growing kids ages 6, 7, 10 and 12. I've always felt that it was my job to foster creativity in them, but now, with the current media trends and screen usage, I feel more responsible than ever.
To start, I will say that our kids use screens for about 60 minutes a day (tv and devices included), on average. There are many days that go by without them using screens at all. So it's already something that's been on my mind. Based on the stats mentioned above, I can assume we're already doing things outside of the norm. And I'm ok with that. As much as creativity is important, teaching my children individuality is also a huge priority. Being different is a good thing.
It's concerning for me to see the high screen-usage among adults, let alone children and teens (whose brains are still developing, I might add). We are experiencing higher rates of loneliness, depression and suicide, among CHILDREN, directly related to our constant use of these devices. Those symptoms are the quick turnaround that we can see in front of us. But what about the long-term effects? The truth is, we don't actually know what this is doing to our brains. We are, essentially, the experiment.
If that doesn't make you rethink your own screen usage, I don't know what will. The addictive nature of gaming and social media on top of staring at the blue light for hours a day should be concerning. We really don't know yet what long-term effects this is having, so why not limit our usage drastically? Screens are not a necessity for a healthy childhood. Read over that last sentence again and let it sink in a little.
All that said, I am not out to shame anyone for using their devices. I'm as addicted as you are. I'm very connected on social media, and I use it both personally and professionally. This challenge is motivated by a need to do what is best for my family.
There are two reasons why I'm making this public:
ACCOUNTABILITY - This challenge is a big deal for us since screen-time makes up a decent amount of our schedule and lifestyle, so I need to share it in order to further push me to follow through on it. That's the ugly truth. It's going to be hard, and I know it.
INSPIRATION & COMMUNITY - Maybe some of you have been feeling this same urgency, but you don't know what to do about it. I want to inspire and equip a few of you to join with me on this challenge. The more, the merrier. We are our children's best leaders and we have a responsibility to equip them for their future. They only have a few years of childhood, and I don't want screens to rob them of adventures and memories they could have in real life.
There's so much more I could say about this, but I'm going to stop there, because I'm not writing a book, for goodness sakes!
If you feel the same need to limit your child's screen-time and want to take the challenge with me, I assure you, you can do it! And you will have a summer full of memories to show for it!
The practical application...
I realize it's not realistic to cut out ALL screen-time in our day and age. So, after much thought and planning, we've come up with a plan we're willing to commit to. You can feel free to copy our guidelines, or create your own. I've put together a guideline page that you can download, print and stick somewhere that everyone can see it. Our family's goals during this challenge are on the first sheet below, and then I've added a blank one so you can make your own. We are starting on June 1st (we've already cancelled our netflix account - I know. Scary.). You get to decide when your schedule will start.
The point is that you are taking control of your time with your kids and that you're letting them experience life as screen-free as possible. It's just for this summer, but I encourage you to develop clear guidelines for your family's screen usage beyond summer 2018.
Questions you might have:
What if my work depends on screen usage?
If your work depends on screens, like my work does, you need to determine what is a reasonable amount of screen-time for yourself. I will have set times where I will be on screens doing my work. The plan is to stick to these times and try to keep them limited to the kids' quiet times or during their bedtime. I am also cutting off Netflix and will be very intentional with my downtime during the week. This is a personal choice. The point is, that it's a challenge. And if you're addicted to screens (like most of us are) you should be actively working to break that addiction and replace it with more enriching activities.
What if I work full-time and my child is in a day-camp?
I am assuming your day camp has regularly scheduled activities. Many of them will be outdoors, and this is a good thing. Check with your director how much screen-time your child will be allowed to have and adjust this accordingly. Does your child really need to take a phone with him/her? Will they be watching movies regularly?
Isn't it important for children to learn how to use technology?
Yes and no. Fortunately, our children are growing up with technology, so they are learning it by default. This challenge isn't about throwing out technology altogether, it's here to stay. The challenge is more about regulating their time and prioritizing how they spend their summer (in this case) and childhood. A lot of the stuff they are being exposed to via our smart phones and tablets is not really helping their development in a positive way.
If you have any other questions, please leave them in the comments!
Here in Niagara, the weather has been absolutely beautiful - truly the perfect fall climate for amazing family photos. This is probably my busiest time of year for family sessions, and I LOVE FAMILY PHOTOGRAPHY! I love the energy children bring into a session, but I'll admit, I'm spent after a day of back-to-back mini sessions! It's work - fun work - but still work.
I know a few things about managing children during photos, since I have 4 kids of my own, currently ages 4-11. I don't always get it right, but I wanted to share some of my tips with you! My hope is that you'll take some of these and apply them to your own picture-taking...and/or realize when to hire a professional. (Even I have a hard time taking my own family Christmas card photos...and they never turn out like I want them to...as evidenced last year when I gave up - see previous blog post.)
There's alot more that goes into getting the best candid family shots, but these are my top 5 tips that I use all the time:
1. THROW PERFECTION OUT THE WINDOW
Ask yourself if you really want that perfectly posed shot. If you do, it'll be worth your time/money to hire a professional. But even then, it's a good idea to redefine what makes a beautiful photo. In my opinion, the best family photos are the ones that show emotion and warmth. If you can keep the mood light and fun, the emotions you'll capture will most-likely be positive. Focus less on getting "the shot", and work towards maintaining a fun mood.
2. TIMING IS KEY
If you have small children, it might not be a good idea to plan photos during naptime, after a long day at school, or right before a meal. If you've been a parent for more than 30 minutes, you've probably gathered that strategy is key, especially when you have more than one child. Align your own stars by having snacks ready, choosing a time that is typically peaceful for your child, and plan ahead so you are not rushing the photos.
3. AVOID TRIGGER WORDS
The best family photos happen when the child forgets we're there to take pictures. Focus on having fun with your child, and put your photography ninja skills to work. Don't use phrases like, "look at the camera", or "smile for the picture". Many children are allergic to these words and will do the opposite when provoked with them. Instead, use phrases that pull their attention towards you, like, "Aaaaa! Is there a bug on me?" or, "Do I have something in my teeth? or, "What kinds of things do you see in the sky?". I always try to be a little goofy when I'm taking family photos, strike up conversation with the kids, and snap photos in between...all while subtly avoiding the fact that we're actually here for photos.
4. EYES ARE EVERYTHING
Never underestimate the power of the eyes in a photo. The entire photo can be so-so, but if the eyes are crisp...and showing emotion...that's a win. Keep focused on the eyes, especially when they are looking at the camera.
5. KEEP SHOOTING
Once your settings are good, and you have the child where you want them, take multiple photos. During a typical family session, I expect to shoot about double the amount of photos that I would on an individual portrait session. Kids are quick, and that adorable moment may only be seconds long. And the fact is, kids never repeat the same moment twice during a session. Especially if you try to recreate it. So you have to calculate, and then shoot more frames than you think you'll need of that one particular scene.
I hope this has been helpful! You can get beautiful candid family shots this fall if you do a little planning and alot of letting go! :)
I think it's safe to say I have the most gorgeous friends.
I mean, this girl is a light in my life. She's beautiful on the inside, and obviously, the outside is a reflection of that. Christina is a writer, musician, mother of 2 amazing little boys and wife of a talented musician and entrepreneur, Joel.
We became friends while working on a business project together, and now I can't imagine not having her in my life. We always pick up where we left off, and she never judges me for not "having it together". I just love her and her incredible smile and love for life.
Maybe you've seen my updates about recent photography workshops and you're wondering,
"But...people hire her to take their pictures. Why would she teach them to take their own?"
That's a really great question. It's definitely one that I asked myself before I started teaching workshops.
And here are some of the reasons why I get so excited about teaching this workshop:
1) I believe everyone should know how to take beautiful photos.
Everyone deserves to have photos of their childhood - photos that show the essence of the moment - photos that are properly exposed and composed - photos they would be proud to have in their wedding slideshow someday. I like looking through old photos, but I love stumbling upon an old photo that was obviously taken with skill and intention.
2) You spent money on a nice camera, you should know how to use it!
Many of you bought that nice camera thinking great shots will just pop out of it automatically (not you, of course...I'm talking to that other person reading this). Many of you have a budding passion for photography that needs a little push in the right direction. You need someone to help you grasp the technical side or the artistic side (or both!). I am passionate about helping you maximize the camera you already have!
3) I can't be there to photograph every one of your milestones.
As much as I would love you to hire me to photograph every cute/new thing your baby does, let's face it, that's not practical. At all.
Hire me for the big stuff - family, milestones, maternity, birth and new baby, etc. - and take beautiful in-between photos on your own! Learn to take photos that you'd be proud to print big.
4) We should all "stop and smell the roses".
I lead a pretty active/full life, but I am constantly reminding myself to have a "slowed-down" view of the moments I experience. In this busy culture we live in, it's important to cultivate a gratitude for the simple things. It makes life richer. There is beauty everywhere, and everyone should know how to find it. Photography is one way to exercise that. Photography takes you out of the busy, and gets you on the ground looking at the ants, or paying attention to the way your child concentrates on their task. It's a simple thing you can do to help point your attention in the right direction.
So, those are some of the main reasons I get excited about teaching photography workshops. I know I get to help people do something they've maybe been wanting to do for a long time. I am grateful that I get to inspire them on their artistic journey.