Parenting Tip: Three Photos, and I’m Out!

Thomas the Tank Engine day with my kids

Jon Acuff has a nice post about Skrillex (an Internet sensation for his electronic music) who recently advised a group of his fans that they shouldn’t try to experience his concert through their smartphones. In the words of Mr. Skrillex:

Don’t try to experience the party through your cell phone just so you can document it to show people later that you were there. Just be there.

Acuff follows with some helpful thoughts about parenting, and many of the commenters lamented that they feel pressure to document everything in order to be good parents. But among the comments, I especially appreciated this great suggestion from KC,

I have a 3 picture rule… If our daughter does something iPhone camera worthy, we snap 3 quick pics then put the phone back in the pocket.  Later, it can get Instagramed, posted, tweeted, whatever.   As first time parents, I love capturing those precious moments, but being IN that moment is far more important!

I love that KC is being thoughtful about the benefits and downsides of the smartphone. She recognizes problems, but instead of abandoning the technology altogether she puts two thoughtful boundaries around it that represent and reinforce her values:

  1. First, she limits herself to three pictures instead of endlessly angling for that perfect shot which sometimes ruins the beauty of the event itself.
  2. Second, it seems that she waits until later to post, tweet, instagram, etc. the photo  so she isn’t looking at the phone while her kids standby.

By setting these boundaries around the technology, she is able to balance the two things she values: being “IN” the moment and capturing memories. And if you have tips of your own, please share them in the comments!

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John Dyer

In my day job, I work at Dallas Theological Seminary, and at night I write Bible software for countries whose leaders could be called "overlords." This one time, I wrote a book about technology and Christian faith. You can find out more about what I'm up to at

5 thoughts on “Parenting Tip: Three Photos, and I’m Out!”

  1. Dr. Dyer, Great post. It reminds me of the great poet J. Mayer writing:
    “Today I finally overcame
    tryin’ to fit the world inside a picture frame
    Maybe I will tell you all about it when I’m in the mood to
    lose my way but let me say
    You should have seen that sunrise with your own eyes
    it brought me back to life
    You’ll be with me next time I go outside
    no more 3×5’s
    just no more 3×5’s”

  2. Timely post! I just had a similar discussion with a mom whose daughter had the lead role in the school’s spring musical. The mom left her unattended video camera on a tripod at the back of the auditorium so that she could be in the moment. The conversation began because I had my video gear out and she was hoping that she could get a copy if her approach didn’t work out.

  3. I’m a photographer, so I definitely go beyond the “3 photos” rule, especially with my nephew. I try to balance just being with him and being in the moment with taking plenty of portrait quality photos of him (which often means I need to take a lot of candid shots in order to select the very best ones as portraits). I love just hanging out with him and not taking photos, but I live 2500 miles away from him, so I *need* the photos, and his parents appreciate them too. However I do hear KC’s point.

    One ironic moment I happened to record on camera was the day my parents and my brother and I got to meet my nephew for the first time, when he was 3 weeks old. His other grandparents were there that day too. We were all oohing and aahing over him, and before *any* of us asked to hold him, all the digital devices came out and were focused on him. In that ironic photo of mine, there were three visible digital cameras or smartphones snapping photos, plus mine. I realized that was crazy. We should have been holding him and experiencing our first meeting of him up close and personal, not through a lens.

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