My daughter has grown up watching me make films, shoot photos and promote art in a wide variety of ways. As filmmaker, I spend much of my time in front of a screen and my family is quite accustomed to seeing me on my phone, tablet or laptop. So how do we teach our kids to use these devices responsibly? Get them involved of course! Show them how to do math, science, art and steer them away from the latest games and funny face apps that are out there. Today, we will use our phones, pods and tablets for something that connects the family.

While on vacation recently, I asked my daughter (Hannah) and my niece (Lauren) to use their iPods for a photo project. On a family outing to the Polar Bear Plunge in Port Washington, Wisconsin, my directions were to tell the story of the plunge in one photo. Take as many photos as needed to find the one that tells the story and type a couple sentences describing what you see.

Here’s what the girls captured:

Hannah's Photo

Hannah’s Photo

Hannah says, “The Polar Bear Plunge is both exciting and nerve racking. Many people ran in and out of the water while screaming their heads off. They ran into their warm towels and went home to their families to tell them all about it.” By looking at her photo, don’t you hear the screams and the splashes. Don’t you see nerves? Do you see excitement? I see it!

Lauren's Photo

Lauren’s Photo

Lauren writes, “The Polar Bear Plunge brings people together. People can meet other people they don’t know. I think it lets people see the world around them.” Look at her photo. Do you see how many more people are in the water? Don’t they seem to be playing at the lake? I do see people coming together!

I like the contrast between the two views but here’s where it gets better! If you examine closely, Hannah’s photo shows two guys to the right who are the same two guys on the left side of Lauren’s photo. Somehow, these two little girls roamed separately through the crowd and captured almost the same moment from different perspectives!

This was Hannah’s first visit to a Wisconsin winter, a far contrast from Arizona’s winter. So she went in a little nervous about the cold winter weather. Lauren was born in Wisconsin. The cold is a normal part of life for her. Lauren sees community. Hannah sees triumph. They are both right. Through this experience they are able to see that what creates a moment of fear and courage for one person, provides a warm sense of family for the other.

Parents, get involved. Do the exercise with them. Here’s my photo:

Mat's Photo

Mat’s Photo

This lady embodies bravery and unity, maybe a little lunacy. This is a beautiful moment for a beautiful woman in a beautiful community. She’s going for the gusto!

Stay inside or go for a walk, but challenge your child to spend time in thought. Take a bunch of photos: far away, up close, at a weird angle, or only photograph a part of it. But use your heart and mind to connect.

Parents, my biggest advice is not to critique the art. Be interested in what they see because in that moment, they are showing you their truth. It means something. The value of giving your young artist a voice is letting them know that their perspective matters.

Mat Lien is an Emmy Award winning video producer/filmmaker who currently serves as Creative Services Consultant at Arizona Public Service. His daughter, Hannah, attends 5th grade in Kyrene School District.

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