Internet, smartphones cause 'digital amnesia'

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New research shows digital technologies are changing the way people think, behave and remember facts.
New research shows digital technologies are changing the way people think, behave and remember facts.

Consumers today remember far less than before, because of a growing reliance on the Internet and smartphones, according to research conducted by Kaspersky Lab.

Kaspersky Lab defines digital amnesia as: "The experience of forgetting information you trust a digital device to store and remember for you."

In a Kaspersky blog post about the research, the security company said it was done to analyse how digital devices and the Internet affect the way people recall and use information today; and what they are doing to protect it.

"Smartphones are the ubiquitous companions for many of us. They have become an extension for the human brain; and just like the brain, they need protection. The majority of motorcyclists put on helmets, but only a few manage to adequately protect their phones with IT security," says Kate Kochetkova, a Kaspersky researcher.

Research firm Opinion Matters was commissioned to survey 6 000 consumers, aged between 16 and 55. The consumers were split equally between male and female, with 1 000 people from the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Benelux. The survey was completed online between February and March.

Key findings from the research include:

* 60% of respondents can remember the phone number of the house they lived in, aged 10, but less than 50% could remember their children's numbers or office number without looking it up first.
* Only a third of those surveyed say they remember their partner's number by heart.
* Digital amnesia is more prevalent in older age groups.
* 79.5% of those surveyed admit they use the Internet as a universal reference book.
* 25% of women surveyed, as well as 34% of younger respondents, say they would panic if they lost their devices, as these are the only place they store photos, messages and contact information.
* 34.5% of those surveyed said they have security on their smartphones to protect their information, while 28% said they do have security software on any of their devices.

"The overall trend seems worrying to some degree. In contrast to general knowledge that will always be retrievable from the Internet, personal information seems indeed very vulnerable if it is stored solely on one electronic device, and if this device is used as a replacement for our autobiographical memory," says Dr Maria Wimber, lecturer, school of psychology at the University of Birmingham.

Kaspersky developed a quiz for people to find out how they are affected by digital amnesia.

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