"When we read a book to a child, it's the same thing we do with these photos," Best said.
Koskie has noticed that cuddling in bed on a lazy Saturday morning and swiping through digital photos is one of Paisley's favorite activities, and it seems to encourage her to ask about her place in the world. They look at photos and videos together on the iPad going back to Paisley's birth and "she'll start to ask questions: 'When I was a little tiny baby did I do this? Did I do that?'"
Paisley and the iPad are almost the same age: She was born two weeks after it came out. "That's a base-level, foundation technology for her," said Koskie, who handles marketing and content strategy for the email app EvoMail. "Someday it's all going to come back to bite me or she's going to come back and say, 'Wow, there's this whole encyclopedia of my whole life.' We're very plugged in, for better or for worse."
Still, parents who remember the days before iPhones wonder if their children will ever really understand the power of a cherished photograph. Jason Michael, a 32-year-old father of two in Denver, has taken so many photos of his 11-month-old son and 4-year-old stepdaughter (about 4,000) that his iPhone's memory has filled up three times. His stepdaughter takes plenty of selfies and loves to film herself singing favorite songs, then watches the videos again and again.
Michael worries that all that visual noise may keep them from treasuring that one special image that can evoke memories decades later. For him, it's a photo of himself as an 8-month-old baby lying on a pink blanket decorated with a rabbit eating a carrot. He remembers the photo so vividly that he asked his mother for the blanket when his son was born.
"I know everything about that photo. But there are 20,000 photos of my kids, so will it have that same emotional impact for them?" Michael said.
"It sounds a little cheesy, I guess, but you look at the photos and it's so rich and there's so much you remember about it," he said. "Now, all they have to do is swipe their hand to the left and it's gone and there's a new picture."
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