Every time I cover any event that involves children, I find myself competing with a legion of (sometimes angry) parents who are desperately trying to make a video or take photos of their kids.
I am now getting used to being yelled at for accidentally ruining people’s footage while trying to do my job.
I get it. If I had children I would probably be doing the same thing. And I would probably also be angry at the reporter who stepped in front of me while I’m trying to make a video (how dare he?).
But while we are all competing to get the best shots, I wonder if these kids appreciate having so much documentation of their lives in the first place.
A couple of months ago, nationally-known speaker Jessie Miller spoke at Lakes District Secondary School about social media and online safety. He encouraged the audience to think about how they feel when their parents show embarrassing photos of them as children to other people.
While the older generations only have these embarrassing photos inside dusty and forgotten photo albums, the younger generations don’t seem to have this privilege anymore. Their photos have already been posted and shared countless times even before they understand what social media is.
It must be strange to have your entire life documented and publicly available from the time you were born. That’s why Miller said he has never posted photos of his children online.
When I think about my own experience, I think it would’ve been nice to maybe have some more photos and footage of me as a young kid, but I certainly feel lucky that I didn’t have countless photos and videos of me shared on social media.
So maybe parents are not doing this for the benefit of their children. Maybe this is something that parents are doing for themselves – maybe as a way to hang on to those precious childhood years.
While incessantly documenting the lives of their kids may seem harmless, Miller warns that many parents today are using technology to “pacify” their kids so that they can get some “quiet time.”
“Any coffee house you go today you will see a kid quiet, looking at a phone,” says Miller. “That is not a child well behaved, that child is pacified.”
He also warns that many children are learning about technology even before they start kindergarten, which means that they are using technology before they have an understanding of the world.
“We are still trying to educate kids about Internet safety and online predators, and yet we fail to recognize that we haven’t prepared them for the biggest threat they may face: their own actions,” says Miller. “The reality of the future hasn’t really set in when you’re 14 and telling your story on social media.”