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article imageCan technology affect the memories of children?

By Tim Sandle     Jan 26, 2019 in Science
Is the way we remember in the era of technology changing? What is the importance of tangible vs. digital memories? And does this affect children more than adults? These research questions have recently been explored.
Children are high users of technology, growing up in an era where looking at a screen is a normal and regular activity. This raises several concerns. A recent study by The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, reveals how screen time can negatively impact on children’s sleep and is linked to a less healthy diet and a sedentary lifestyle.
This represented the first expert UK guidance aimed at helping parents prevent smartphones and console use becoming harmful, and it came with the recommendation that children should switch off screens an hour before bedtime.
There is some contrasting research, from the University of Oxford (covered by Digital Journal) that suggests that children are not, in general, being adversely affected by the use of digital devices.
The use of screens by children has led to another interesting area of research inquiry: memory. This has been the subject of an inquiry, requested by Rajapack UK (a packaging company) and led by research professor, Andrew Hoskins, Tony Ortega, Clinical Psychologist, and Lorna Cordwell, who is a therapist. The study has not been peer reviewed.
The researchers have found that the digital revolution is transforming the way we remember and what we forget. The research also indicates that recording our memories (such as by camera or by video) is becoming more important than enjoying the event itself. However, our five senses remain the key triggers for emotional memories.
As societies increasingly embrace digitalisation, memory and the way that people remember has led to an important consideration: is there still value in keeping tangible memories?
This question is framed in the context of technology providing people with unlimited opportunities for storage. However, do we still need tactile objects like memory boxes or as these simply a nostalgic way to look into the past?
The researchers have looked into the ways that we remember and to the role tangible memories play in our lives. The research shows that tactile memories provide a strong connection to our past, allowing people to access all our five senses and triggering vibrant and vivid memories in the process.
Furthermore, the researchers found that tangible memories have a benefit on intergenerational relationships. “It’s almost like giving a tradition to the younger generation”, according to Dr. Tony Ortega.
However, we are also experiencing changes, especially with the younger generation. It would appear that technology has re-engineered memory, with digital technology opening up more avenues for people to store and access memories and to access these with immediacy. According to Andrew Hoskins this “both imprisons and liberates active human remembering and forgetting”.
However, a consequence of this, the researchers find, is that technology plays such a crucial part in the process of making memories that people are no longer just reliant on media for memory but are now dependent on it.
Here Hoskins notes: “The act of recording has become more urgent than seeing that which is being recorded.” Smartphone technology has created a compulsion to record and filter all aspects of our everyday lives: “The present is literally being screened out by the digital as the default way of seeing the world... The unrecorded areas of our lives are shrinking fast.”
Hoskins expands on these themes in his book “Digital Memory Studies: Media Pasts in Transition”. The book focuses on the paradox of digital media, networks and archives helping us to reimagine and revitalize individual, social and cultural memory, but also helping to ensnare memory, bringing it under new forms of control.
This change to perception and memory emphasizes that tactile and tangible memories still need to play a role with how people recall things that are important to them. It’s still a good idea to keep that memory box.
More about Memory, Psychology, Digital Age, Children
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