Childhood without Technology*
By Alexa Erickson
Do you remember a tech-free childhood? For the most part, I do, with the exception of television. I am thankful I didn’t grow up during the era of iPads and iPhones, and everything that comes with them — easy access to streamed movies and TV shows, YouTube, games, and endless social media feeds. I didn’t have a device to distract me at the fancy restaurant. When I was bored, my parents told me to read, to go outside, to play with my sister.
I was a nanny for a long time as a young adult, during the emergence of iPhones, iPads, and the social media hype. I can tell you that I saw firsthand its effects on children’s desire to go outside and play, to interact with their siblings, and to fill the void of boredom with books, board games, or even a tree outside rather than a screen.
While there is certainly a lot of opinions on today’s technology and our children, and I respect parents’ choices for their children, and I do believe iPhones, iPads, social media, and more are more than just unavoidable, but also beneficial in many circumstances. However, I also believe in the simplicity of life; in the power of getting dirty in nature; in using your creativity to make up games with your sibling; in getting lost in a book.
It seems New Zealand photographer and mother of four Niki Boon does too. In a series called “Childhood in the Raw,” she documented her children’s everyday lives, showcasing the joys of a tech-free world.
“This project came into being with our decision to educate our children alternatively, at home,” Boon told HuffPost.
As one might assume, there have been a lot of questions and criticism from friends, family, and strangers regarding the family’s lifestyle. Boon, her husband, and their children — a 12-year-old daughter and three sons, ages 7, 9, and 13 — live in a rural environment without modern electronic devices like TV and smartphones.
“In the beginning, the photos served as a visual document, to record things that the children were doing in a day, to reassure both others and ourselves that there was learning taking place,” Boon said.
“But as time went on, I became frustrated that the pictures weren’t really telling the story well enough for me. It just wasn’t with enough depth,” she continued.
“So I spent many hours and late nights trying to teach myself how to take better pictures, ones that depicted what I was seeing in front of me, and tell the story the way I saw it … and things just evolved from there.”
Boon’s tech-free childhood, in which she grew up on a farm with extended family, sparked her desire to give her children a similar experience.
“Like all parents we would love our children to be strong in who they are, confident, free thinkers, proactive, independent, resilient, empathetic and happy,” said Boon.
“I hope that, living with the land that we have, that they also gain a healthy respect for the earth, and for the animals and plants that live with us on it.”
Boon hopes, if anything can be taken away from the series, it is that her children have the opportunity to look back on it and smile.
Photos: Niki Boon Photography