Too Many Videos? Research Says Instant Playback of Events Might Alter Kids’ Memories

Some compelling data may give parents pause over recording and replaying their kids' activities. Here's why instant playback of events may have drawbacks.

A young girl takes a smartphone video of a person holding a chicken and basket of eggs

Dance recitals. Running for the ice cream truck. Meeting your favorite character at a theme park. Those sweet five minutes on the sofa when your two kids are sitting peacefully together.

One thing all these moments probably have in common is that you have video of each one.

Today, almost everything our kids do is on-camera. The ease of recording high-quality video right from our mobile devices makes it hard to resist pulling out the phone at every memorable moment.

But is it a good thing? Could watching their new memories on-camera so quickly after they make them change the way children remember these moments? A recent New York Times piece asks that question.

The possible impact of instant playback of events

A psychology professor from Harvard weighed in on the issue, saying playing back an experience soon after it happens can even change the child’s original memory.

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“We know from research that reactivating an experience after it occurs can have large effects on subsequent memory for that experience,” Daniel Schacte, the professor, says in the post – “and, depending on what elements of an experience are reactivated, can even change the original memory.”

Other experts agreed that our era of instant replay isn’t necessarily a good thing for our kids. The article author, Julia Cho, put it this way: “I have no videos of my elementary school performances, ballet recitals or birthday mornings from my early ’80s childhood.

“Videos were not sent via phone for instant viewing. Even film had to be developed when I was growing up; vacation pictures would be viewed a week or so after the experience.

“We got to linger in the experience for a while, from our own perspective; not the camera’s,” she continues. “Even though many of my childhood memories are hazy, they’re mine.”

A silver lining to our beloved recordings

Still, most parents won’t be willing to give up capturing these precious moments on camera – and kids are growing up doing the same, especially in the form of selfies.

But if you’re worried all this photo and video coverage – by parents and the kids themselves – will make children more self-absorbed, there’s good news: it probably won’t.

“Kids are naturally selfish,” Julie Falbaum, a licensed master social worker in Troy, explains in a Metro Parent article on selfie culture. “My kids are supposed to be selfish, and I’m supposed to teach them how to be better people.”

How do you strike a balance between taking photos and videos of your kids but not going overboard? Tell us in the comments.

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