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Could your kids survive a technology-free summer?
No smart phones, no tablets, no apps, or even television. What would life look like without all of these distractions?
It seems virtually impossible in this day and age, but that's just the kind of life that photographer Niki Boon has carved out for her kids Arwen, 6, Anton, 8, Rebecca, 11, and Kurt, 12.
The family lives in a rural area of Marlborough, New Zealand, where the children are "alternatively educated." Niki gave up her TV set when her oldest was just a baby, so her four children "don't know what life is like with a TV and likewise with electronic devices," she says.
Without the intoxicating lure of a glowing screen, the siblings spend much of their time outdoors. They explore, collect, climb, swim. They befriend animals, play make-believe, and occasionally get very, very dirty.
Their mom, a professional photographer, documents it all.
Niki says she started out like most mothers do, snapping photos of her kids to capture moments and memories. Eventually those pictures became a series that she calls "Childhood in the Raw."
"I document their days, together, in an environment full of nature and uninhibited play. I photograph as [a] physical record of their childhood, life as it is... the real... but also as a reflection of a childhood rooted deep in my own past... a most sincere place of freedom," she says. "Although deeply personal I believe that others will also connect to some aspect of their own childhood... I believe my children are right where they belong covered in mud, running and living through nature."
In a world where many toddlers have already mastered the art of the iPad, Niki doesn't think that her own kids are missing out.
"Electronics are in their lives by default, living in the world we have these days," she says, noting that the family does have one desktop computer. "But we encourage our children to turn their natural curiosities to the riches of tangibles like books, the outdoors, nature and our immediate environment as a whole."
Looking at these stunning images does make me nostalgic for my own childhood. It wasn't quite as "raw" as the one Niki's children are experiencing: We lived on a semi-busy street and my brothers and I spent our Saturday mornings watching cartoons on TV. When I look back, though, I remember riding my bike down the hills in our neighborhood, whacking away the thorny branches that grew over forgotten trails by the creek, building a dollhouse under the cover of a weeping willow tree, making mud pies in shiny tin plates, pouring treacherous amounts of dish soap on our DIY front yard slip-and-slide.
I wonder if my kids are missing out on this kind of childhood. We limit their screen time and send them outside at every opportunity, but what's missing is the wild. I worry that it's all too structured: Too many well-tread paths, too many watchful eyes, too many schedules and safeguards and words of warning. Seeing these photos really reminds me that it's important for kids to be free.
Be sure to visit Niki Boon's web site and follow her on Facebook and Instagram to see more of her gorgeous work.
Could your kids go screen-free?
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.