There are probably many older people who have no videos of themselves growing up. That’s because, at one time, video cameras—which were called movie cameras since video was not commercially available—were fairly expensive, bulky, and a rarity for the average person. Plus, you had to buy reels of film, take that film somewhere to be developed, and then buy a projector and screen to watch the movies you’d taken. Not to mention that most movie cameras didn’t record sound, so home movies were usually silent, and they were often in black and white. 

Commercial portable video cameras became available in the 1970s and consisted of a gigantic camera and an even more gigantic video recorder and battery pack which had to be strapped around one’s neck. While technically portable, taking a video of the family was probably fairly exhausting. 

It’s only in the last 10-15 years that photos and video became ubiquitously available to everyone via phones and tablets, and that’s a fortunate and fun technology for kids. Not only can today’s children watch their recent and rapid development from one month to the next—and kids do love watching themselves—but years from now, they will appreciate being able to see younger versions of themselves and their loved ones.

Before the school year is over, families should consider documenting each week with a family video journal or diary. A video record of one’s family is something that can be kept and watched for many decades, and it’s something that wasn’t available to previous generations. 

You can, of course, just use your phone to record special events or big moments with photos or videos; however, this approach could be fairly random, you may miss a lot of what’s happening in your child’s life. Plus, there’s always the danger that you’ll accidentally erase the files or lose your phone, which—if not stored on the cloud—means photos and videos are gone forever. 

For a more organized approach to documenting your year in a watchable, customized format, there are apps for that. Unfortunately, many of the apps can get pricey and require a monthly or annual fee. It’s also uncertain what becomes of your diary should you no longer want to pay the fee. If it’s all stored on the cloud, are you denied access to your own files? Will your ancestors have to pay a monthly fee a century from now to be able to access your photos and videos? 

Here are some journaling/diary apps that are either free, require a reasonable one-time fee, or clearly state that files are accessible should one’s membership lapse: 

This app is for Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac. Diaro keeps track of daily activities and can sync to all your devices through Dropbox. Easy to search, Diaro lets you attach and store unlimited photos, and can export entries to PDF. You’re also able to import data from other journal/diary apps like Journey, Evernote, Google Keep, Momento and more. The free version of Diaro includes in-app purchases. 

For Android, iOS, Windows, or Mac, you can organize photos, videos, and text on a calendar, a timeline, or, if your family is on the move, an atlas. You can easily publish to social media, and store everything safely on synchronized Google Drive, so your files are accessible should you stop using the service. While the basic version is free, becoming a Premium subscriber costs $3.99 per month or $29.99 per year. 

For Android, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and Mac, the free, basic plan has plenty of features, but does have some restrictions like only allowing one photo per entry. The premium plan is $2.92 per month, billed annually, and allows unlimited journals and photos. Plus, Day One says you can access your date through the app even if you cancel your premium membership. 

For iOS only, this app is for those who are already using social media to document their lives. Momento brings all shared posts and interactions on social media and combines them in one place. Momento can also be used to create new journal entries as one would with any journaling app, without the social media features. It’s free for up to three social feeds, and $3.99 per month for the premium version which supports multiple photos, more social feeds, themes and app locking. 

Whether you’re using one of the journaling apps or doing it yourself, make it a habit to:

  • Find time each week to video interview your child about things important to them
  • Let your children interview other family members several times a month
  • Regularly document daily life around your home
  • Organize videos and photos every week so you’re not overwhelmed
  • Be sure to upload all files to cloud storage like Google or iCloud

Take as many videos and photos as possible. You can always delete what you don’t want, but you can’t recreate moments once they pass. Remember, too, that the video journal should be fun for everyone, not a chore.

The start of a new year is an ideal time to begin a video journal, and we’re already three months into 2020, so don’t delay. One day, when your children are grown, they—and you—will be happy you took the time to document their childhood and your family.