Put down that camera

Dara Squires
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Dara Squires

Children are fascinating creatures — from the overwhelming ahh of cute babies to the crazy antics of toddlers to the alarming mood swings of preteens.

They’re so fascinating, that as a parent, its hard sometimes not to want to share all the things you observe about them with the rest of the world. The impetus to both record and share those cute and crazy moments seems to drive the majority of Facebook posts and YouTube uploads.

But nothing drives me more nuts than seeing a parent “engage” from behind the camera.

Take the playground. I’ve got a few snaps, taken quickly from my phone, of my kids on the swings, crossing the monkey bars, sliding ... all the standards. But I don’t have a weekly series of my child’s growth charted by how close he is to the top of the slide. When I bring my kids to the playground, I play with them, not direct and pose with them.

I don’t know how many times I’ve seen parents bring their kids to the playground and interact only from behind the camera. Their desperation to capture the moment perfectly completely ruins the moment for their child — and the others trying to play on their personal film set.

It’s the same everywhere. Even the other day in the grocery store I noticed a mother taking photos of her child putting vegetables in their grocery cart. In the photos I’m sure she’s smiling, but what I heard was her whining “ewww, what is this Mom?”

OK, so constant pic-snapping is annoying, but in a world where people take pictures of their lunch and post them online, I guess I can’t expect parents to not want to capture all the child-lovely moments of their days.

There’s a line, though, between recording a lived life and performing a preferred life. And when a parent, especially when the child is younger, is so preoccupied with recording the moments, I do worry they’re missing the moments themselves. A picture will never be as satisfactory as a memory.

Like everything, the key is moderation. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a moderate world. We live in a world of viral videos.

And the worst of those are the videos uploaded by parents who have decided to record and share their child with the world.

Outside of the obvious privacy concerns with respect to the child, the majority of the videos that go viral under such circumstances are truly disgusting.

Take the one from a couple of weeks ago with a young boy arguing with his mother about cupcakes. Ignoring the fact that he’s calling her by name, arguing, speaking over her and interrupting, the defining moment is the part where he tells her he is afraid he will get a “kapow on the butt.”

This prime example of all the ways not to interact with your child in simple disciplinary moments was declared the cutest video of the week.

Then there was another this past week of a young boy reacting tearfully to his parents supposedly private but very public announcement of their future child’s gender. The boy, surrounded by his two sisters, is shown crying and screaming “no” when it’s revealed that his newest sibling will be a sister.

He sits at the table, crying, upset, truly miserable, while his father films the moment and commiserates by telling him — in front of his own two daughters — that he had the same reaction to discovering it was another girl.

Instead of putting down the camera and hugging his obviously upset son, perhaps planning some special father-son time so the boy doesn’t feel so overwhelmed by the girls, the father makes sure to catch every moment of his son’s abject misery ... even at times egging him on to create a better performance.

What these parents were thinking when they picked up their cameras to film these private family moments, I don’t know. Maybe they just thought it was something funny to show relatives. But at some point in the filming of each moment, the parent went from recording to directing and producing.

They started actively encouraging the performance, intending to make it more funny, cute or whatever they decided it was.

Unfortunately, there are no child labour laws or actor’s union to support their children’s rights like there would be for real performers.

Instead, these children are being coerced into creating a performance piece and then having their rights to privacy — and dignity — stripped by parents who think they’re so cute they’ve got to go viral.

And while some critics will complain about things within the video — one blogger pointed out that the cupcake video involved mention of spanking — no one seems to think the videos themselves are wrong.

I do. I think standing behind a camera and encouraging a performance when your child needs discipline, comforting or just the strong presence of a parent, is a form of parental neglect. You can’t parent from behind a camera.

You can comment on this column or access previous editions of Readily A Parent using the following short link: http://bit.ly/DaraSquires.

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