Are digital devices like smartphones, tablets, and computers diminishing our memory? We asked Americans which important phone numbers they can remember and the results were alarming—it’s not a lot. Perhaps the most frightening finding from our survey is that over 82 percent of parents wouldn’t be able to remember their children’s phone number if they had to. These results lead to the conclusion that digital amnesia is widespread and it’s time to combat it.
We surveyed 3,000 Americans to find out which phone numbers they could remember (without looking at their phones) and found the following:
- Over half of men couldn’t dial their parents’ phone numbers by memory to check on them.
- People ages 35–44 know their partners’ numbers more than any other age group.
- 82 percent of parents wouldn’t be able to remember their children’s phone number if faced with an emergency.
- 61 percent of people would be upset if their partner didn’t remember their phone number.
What is Digital Amnesia?
Digital amnesia is the effect of a technology dependence which inhibits your ability to remember things.
Also called “The Google Effect,” the result of digital dependence can lower your ability to track your life like how much money you spend, calorie intake, and even sleeping patterns by memory alone, decreasing the capacity to remember things over time.
82 Percent of Parents Couldn’t Recall Their Child’s Number in an Emergency
Without their kids on speed dial, most parents can’t remember their childrens’ phone numbers. People ages 25–34 suffered the effects of digital amnesia most in regards to their children, with 88 percent of this age group unable to remember their child’s number.
- 63 percent of men can’t recall their child’s phone number from memory.
- 37 percent of women wouldn’t be able to dial their child’s phone number from memory.
Nearly ⅔ of People Wouldn’t be Able to Call Their Parents from Memory to Check on Them
Most generations, from ages 18–64, are all somewhat equal in their ability to remember their parent’s phone numbers. 85 percent of people ages 18–24 wouldn’t be able to get a hold of their parents without their phone—a concerning number considering the coming independence of this age group.
- 61 percent of men can’t recall their parent’s number.
- 39 percent of women aren’t able to remember their parent’s phone number.
Digital Amnesia Affects 59 Percent of Couples (and 61 Percent Are Upset About It)
Of 1,500 participants, 61 percent of people we surveyed say they would be upset if their partner didn’t remember their phone number. This is bad news for most relationships, as fewer than half are able to remember their significant other’s contact information by heart.
Percentage of each age group who can’t recall their partner’s phone number:
- People ages 18–24: 92 percent
- People ages 25–34: 84 percent
- People ages 35–44: 79 percent
- People ages 45–54: 81 percent
- People ages 55–64: 81 percent
Over ¾ Don’t Know Their Manager’s Phone Number
“No call, no show” is the reality for the 78 percent of Americans who wouldn’t be able to remember their manager’s phone number without the assistance of their saved contact information.
- 79 percent of people ages 45–54 can’t recall their manager’s phone number by heart.
- 85 percent of people ages 25–34 couldn’t remember their manager’s phone number without assistance.
Tips to Combat Digital Amnesia
Memory matters. The ability to recollect important information is not automatic, but a learned skill. Luckily, there are ways to combat memory loss associated with The Google Effect.
Practice these tactics to diminish digital amnesia and improve your memory:
- Brain Dump: Similar to an overloaded computer, a brain dump can clear your cache to improve overall performance. Memorize selected information—from a recipe to all the U.S. Presidents. Sit for a few minutes, then write out every piece of that information you can remember.
- Digital Detox: Being constantly bombarded with information can lead to memory loss. Practice “starving” the brain to rebuild your memory. Try turning off your device or putting it on airplane mode, sleeping with your device in the other room, or doing complete digital detox for a set period of time.
- Limit Notifications: Improve your ability to concentrate by removing the distraction of push notifications from your applications.
In the most extreme case, the loss of memory means a loss of understanding the past, a pivotal step to avoid repeating mistakes. As technology advances, we also have to exercise our brain to keep up.
Digital amnesia isn’t the only potential threat that comes with internet use. Keep your networks secure with comprehensive antivirus protection to protect your devices, along with your memory.
Methodology: This study was conducted for Panda Security using Google Consumer Surveys. The sample consisted of no less than 1,500 completed responses per question for a total of 3,000 respondents. Post-stratification weighting has been applied to ensure an accurate and reliable representation of the total population. This survey was conducted in August 2020.