If you ask the typical family "who cares most about family photos?" most will agree that it's mom. It seems that mom is on to something that psychologists have been exploring in the recent past.
David Walsh, founder and director of Mind Positive Parenting has given a very interesting interview with LifeTouch where he talks about why photographs of children help them to establish a sense of belonging. He says, “One of the reasons that photography is so powerful is that we’re a very visual species. We have, of course, five senses but we have more brain cells dedicated to vision than all of the other senses combined.”
“We celebrate the birthdays. We memorialize the family holiday celebrations. We remember being on that softball team.” Every time a child brings home their yearbook, Walsh says, “The first thing they look for is to see where they show up in that book.” This is why photographs become a point of reference in the child's relationships with others. “When we see photographs of ourselves at celebrations or family events, they reinforce belonging, which is so critical to all of us, not just our children.”
Photographs are helpful in that they allow for children to see themselves as a valued and important part of that family unit. Most experts will agree that the value of printed photos far exceeds viewing them digitally. Placing photos where a child can see them daily provides children with a sense of comfort and reassurance. It's a wonderful reminder that you've taken the time to display their photographs because you love them, find them beautiful and want to see them every day.
In "The Magic of Encouragement" (Morrow, 1990), child psychotherapist Stephanie Marston suggests placing two pictures of a child next to his or her bed. One should show the child happily engaged in an activity, such as riding a bike, playing softball, etc. The other should show family togetherness.
"Why put them next to their beds?" she asks. "Research has shown the 30-minute time period just before bed is when children are more receptive and listen and absorb more than any other time. Put photos of your kids being capable and loved next to their beds," she says, "and these positive images are likely to be the last thing they see before they sleep and the first thing they see when they awaken."
Professor Geoff Beattie, Head of School and Dean of Psychological Sciences at the University of Manchester says, "We cannot underestimate the power of photographs to keep us feeling linked to others and belonging. They cement us into our networks. It's very significant that the two reasons people give for loving a particular photograph is that it reminds them of a happy time taken with family. These things are so important to us."
"Until recently, people often thought of photographs as almost trivial, but actually they are an incredibly important way of connecting with our sense of self, with each other and with times gone by."