black and white photo of kids
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
April 29, 2020 ·  5 min read

Mom of 4 Showed What Childhood Is Like Without TV and Gadgets

Niki Boon took up photography as a hobby while she was living in Scotland and working as a physiotherapist. In 2008, she flew to China as a backpacker without a return ticket and only one hotel booking. For the next years, she visited around 60 countries and gained a new perspective on how she sees the world. Instead of just focusing on trying to see the most amount ‘things’ in the shortest time, she now prefers to immerse herself in the culture and way of life of the places she visits and photographs. [1] 

The passion for photography rekindled when she returned home and started raising her family. There she created an ongoing photo series called “Childhood in the Raw.” It features her four children and their experiences living without technology on the family’s 10-acre land in New Zealand. Boon gifts the photos to each of her children on their birthdays. She takes inspiration from Alain Laboile, a famous children photographer. 

“Childhood in the Raw” 

“There is a bit of work involved when living on the land for sure,” said Boon, when asked about life in the countryside. “…and we have animals to tend to. But the work is, mostly, what we enjoy… and it is great for the kids to gain the sense of what it is to have to work to enjoy what we have, to learn where our food comes from first hand, about new life and death, both very interesting and not always easy life lessons to learn.” [2]
Courtesy: Niki Boon Instagram

Boon has made the somewhat controversial choice to raise her kids without exposing them to TV or the electronic gadgets that have become mainstays in modern homes. 

“My kids live without TV and modern electronic devices,” she explains. “This is a lifestyle that may seem a bit unconventional to some but I’m so happy that I chose to live in this magical place with my family.”
Courtesy: Niki Boon Instagram

“I document their days in an environment full of nature and uninhibited play,” she says about her photo series. “It’s the physical record of their childhood, life as it is the reality. And it’s also a reflection of a childhood rooted deep in my own past, where I enjoyed absolute freedom. It’s a childhood I now pass on to my own children. I really want others to recall some aspect of their own childhood through my photos.”
Courtesy: Niki Boon Instagram

The Effects of Technology on Kids 

2014 study found that even when factoring for healthy food and exercise, technology has been shown to affect the health of teenagers and children. The researchers referred to screen time as time in front of the TV, video games, phones, and tech toys, and concluded that parents and caregivers should help reduce their children’s screen time overall, since too much screen time has been linked to: 

  • Obesity 
  • Behavioral problems 
  • Sleep issues 
  • Violence 
  • Less time to play  
  • Loss of social skills  
  • Eyestrain 
  • ADHD 
  • Feelings of social isolation 
  • Depression 
  • Anxiety [3] 

Children may rely on technology for amusement and become unable to entertain themselves without it, and this can impact their growth. Many parents nowadays have memories of playing outside, especially in the summer, without realizing the positive effects of those activities. Playing outside is not a retro thing; it’s important for all children.
Courtesy: Niki Boon Instagram

Benefits of Getting Outside

If parents are trying to reduce their children’s screen time, invite them to the great outdoors. They will be able to gain the following benefits

  1. Sunshine and vitamin D, which can improve their immunity 
  2. Exercise from active play
  3. Encouraging creativity, troubleshooting, planning, and multitasking, since free play forces them to make up their own games, amuse themselves, and figure things out for themselves. These are life skills vital every child needs to learn. 
  4. Socialization and working well with others in an unstructured setting 
  5. Appreciation of nature [4] 

Read: The Sunday Family Dinner Is Nearly Obsolete, But it’s One That’s Worth Bringing Back

Great Outdoors for the Win

Teaching children independence and the beauty of the great outdoors is something important to Boon. How her kids interact with nature and how they view the world around them has inspired her photo series.
Courtesy: Niki Boon Instagram

“I believe it is best when my children come home all covered in mud,” says Boon. “They run and play wherever they want and live in harmony with nature. They belong here — wild and free and nothing stands between their young souls and nature. 

“Living in the countryside involves lots of work, that’s true, but it’s great for the kids to gain a sense of what it is to have to work to enjoy what we have. They learn where our food comes from and about life and death. They perceive and fully understand this world and learn important, yet not always easy, life lessons.” 

[1] Niki Boon Photography. 

[2] Greta Jaruševičiūtė. Photographer Mom Documents Her Kids’ Childhood Without Electronic Devices. Bored Panda. 2016 

[3] Ann Pietrangelo. How Does Technology Affect Your Health? The Good, the Bad, and Tips for Use. Healthline. May 23, 2019 

[4] Claire McCarthy, MD. 6 reasons children need to play outside. Harvard Health Publishing. May 22, 2018 

[5] Niki Boon. “Children in the Raw.”