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The American family has experienced dramatic changes over the last 25 years. Family life used to be a priority, nightly family dinners were a tradition and photograph albums were the vehicles for families to revisit the special times they shared together. Today, photos are locked up on hard drives as families struggle to find time to be a family. Recent polls show that American parents want to go back to the basics. More than 80 percent of parents today are willing to earn less in order to live a life that is not frantic.

With the advent of digital photography and the various methods of storing digital photos, millions of unassuming families are foregoing opportunities to share and preserve memories because they do not print out their photos. What's more, children are growing up without the invaluable "proof" photos provide that they are loved and valued.

According to, while Americans today are snapping more pictures than ever before, only 13 percent of digital photos end up being printed and archived on paper. The 87 percent of digital photos not printed on paper are instead left in a camera, stored on a computer hard drive or CD-Rom and are at risk of being lost forever due to hardware or technical problems or simply, human forgetfulness.

Moreover, many candid photos that truly capture personality and moments in time are casualties of the digital camera's "delete" button.

Photos represent who we are as people, what we choose to share with others, and how we wish to be remembered. Families derive a tangible benefit from sharing printed photos with each other. Photos help children gain a sense of identity. They develop a memory bank and sense of continuity about their life, seeing themselves grow and change, and become aware of the past and present. Children's self-esteem comes from how others perceive them, particularly their parents. By viewing photographs of your children with them and commenting positively on the images, it reinforces their self-esteem.

A renewed awareness of preserving and printing images of ourselves -- in photo albums that can be shared and in picture frames around the home -- is important for reinvigorating families and making their well-being a priority. Making printed copies of heirloom photographs passed down from prior generations for children to use in creating scrapbooks provides them with a greater understanding of their family history.

Photo labs are equipped to print digital photos from disks, CDs or e-mail files, and the process is relatively inexpensive, quick and easy. The immediacy of a digital camera is exciting, but then the images are stored away and not visible. Printed photographs, which are usually displayed in the home or shared in photo albums, become a living history and part of our lives. Embrace the new digital technologies and snap away, but make sure to print those pictures so that they will be a part of your home and family forever.

Kenneth Condrell, Ph.D., is a child psychologist, family therapist, author of several books on parenting and an amateur photographer. He is also national spokesperson for

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