Smile! Overindulging children with too many holiday photos?

November 11, 2013  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Children are growing up in a digital world where their photos are everywhere, especially during the holiday season. Parents might want to literally change their focus, says a Purdue University child development expert.

"Children need to feel valued and loved, but they should not be given the idea that they are more important than other family members or that their needs are the only things that matter," says Judith Myers-Walls, professor emeritus of child development. "Just as children need to learn limits for their behavior, they also need to learn that there are limits to how often they are the center of attention. Take pictures of them. Frame some pictures. But also take pictures of other family members and friends. Allow the children to take pictures of things as well and frame some of those pictures."

Myers-Walls says parents can learn a lot from how their children view the world through a camera. A family activity could be to let the children take photos that will be featured on the family's holiday card. Ask children to take pictures of something that represents winter or the family's celebrated season.

Myers-Walls also says holiday photos should be about documenting the growth and development of an entire family, and not just a changing child.

"Year to year, the children change more than the adults in the family, so it is tempting to take pictures of the children alone," she says. "But it may be more valuable in the long run to take pictures of the entire family and show how everyone is growing and relating to each other. Family pictures are also a way of communicating to the family itself and to others how that family sees itself. Is the dog included as a family member? Is there an exchange student this year? Is one of the older children now in a serious relationship? Was grandma there to visit this year?"

This may also be an opportunity to use a professional photographer, says Myers-Walls, whose husband is a professional photographer. She says the outside perspective not only can help with the quality of images but also reinforce the whole family experience.

"It is important for children to see themselves as part of the family universe, but not always as the center of that universe," she says. 

Writer: Amy Patterson Neubert, 765-494-9723, 

Source: Judith Myers-Walls,   

Related websites:

College of Health and Human Sciences

Department of Human Development and Family Studies

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