The Tech Tools I Use to Record and Preserve My Parents’ Stories

"Love your parents. We are so busy growing up, we often forget they are also growing old.”

For most of my life, I was too busy worrying about myself to make time for my parents. Everything my mom and dad did seemed to annoy me from middle school to high school to college, and I couldn't wait to get as far away as possible.

As I've grown older, I now treasure my relationship with my parents and the time we get to spend together more than anything else.

To overcome our differences, get to know each other, and learn from each other, has become the most important journey of my life.  

My mom and dad have a lifetime of stories, wisdom, and eye-opening experiences to share. All I have to do is ask and listen.

My parents won't be around one day, so one of my greatest desires is to understand and preserve our family history to pass on to future generations. Playing Parents Are Human with them and recording their answers to each question has helped me do just that.

I've had the honor of meeting many of the thousands of people who have now played Parents Are Human with their loved ones. I discovered that many of you are also recording your sessions and documenting your family's history.

I want to share the ways I've been using technology to record these precious memories I'm creating with my parents so you can do the same and learn from my experiences & mistakes:

Recording Remote Conversations

  • Zoom ($14.99/month) + YouTube Studio (Free): My go-to video conferencing tool is Zoom, and I'll almost always hit record when talking to my parents. Zoom's cloud storage for recordings beyond 1GB can be pretty costly ($40/month), so I periodically export all my recordings and upload them to YouTube as private videos since creators have free unlimited video storage.
  • Phone + TapeACall ($9.99/year): When I talk to my parents on the phone, I often use TapeACall. It works phenomenally well with both iOS and Android for both incoming calls, outgoing calls, and calls that you're already on. They don't have recording limits or storage fees, so I have years of recordings stored in the cloud that I have access to at any time. They also offer transcription services for an additional cost.
  • FaceTime + Screen Record (with audio): I will sometimes start screen recording or screenshot to capture moments I want to remember when talking with my parents on FaceTime. You can enable it in your Control Center (instructions here). Important: Don't forget to 3D Touch or long-press the Screen Record icon and press the microphone icon so your screen recordings will also capture audio!

Recording In-Person Conversations

  • Phone + Extendable Tripod ($23.99): Getting an extendable tripod for my phone has been the easiest way to record interviews with my parents at home and take photos of moments I want to remember forever. These tripods often come with Bluetooth remotes, which come in handy when taking multiple pictures or videos from afar. It has also saved the day countless times while traveling when a good group photo opportunity presents itself.
  • Add-on: Blue Yeti Microphone ($126): My mom has a soft voice, and people have commented that the audio is relatively low when recording only with my iPhone. A good mic can be an investment, but it might be well worth it for the priceless memories you'll capture in the highest quality.

A quick note on permission & legality: Don't forget to ask your loved ones if you can record them and respect their desires! My parents know and appreciate that I'm documenting our conversations to preserve their wisdom and stories.

Yes, recording your phone calls is legal, but in some U.S. states, you're legally required to ask for permission from the other person(s) on the call. Here's a state-by-state breakdown. Use your best judgment wherever you live.

Asking my mom the question "What advice would you give to all parents?" from the card game.

Improving My Parents' Lives With Technology

One of my goals is to help my parents become as tech-savvy as possible. It's taken me a long time to get here, and I realize how big of a gift it is to patiently show my parents how to use technology to do more and live easier. They're learning faster and faster and often surprising me with what they've figured out all on their own. I am so, so proud of them.

Here are a few of the tools that have allowed us to communicate better and overcome almost any technology hurdle:

  • Laptop + TeamViewer (Free) or Getscreen.me (Free): Remote computer access software has been a life-changer for our family. What's easy for me to do on a computer may not be easy for my parents. I had to let go of a false belief that my parents were not good at technology. They simply need someone to teach them patiently how to do specific tasks and not judge them. The more times they see and practice how to do something, the more it sticks. I switch off between using TeamViewer and Getscreen.me to remotely access my parents' computers. I can teach them new tricks, accomplish tasks, and troubleshoot whenever they need help. These tools ensure that we're always able to chat!
  • Phone + Phone Tripod ($15.99): On FaceTime calls, it's often awkward, shaky, and tiresome to hold a phone up for an extended period. I got them a flexible phone tripod because sometimes they need to show me something hands-free. Any portable phone stand ($9.99) will work. My parents love the little elephant phone stand ($7.99) we have at home.
  • iPhone SE (<$400) & MacBook Pro (<$800): If you're curious which phone and laptop my parents use, I got them the iPhone SE which was the perfect balance of simplicity, ease of use, and functionality. When my partner and I upgraded our MacBook Pros, we gave my parents our older 15" ones which perfectly suit their needs.

Tools to Facilitate Deeper Conversations

Lastly, I know it's often too easy to go on autopilot with our parents. Here are some of my favorite tools to help facilitate deeper conversations:

  • Parents Are Human ($0-25): A bilingual connection card game designed to spark deep conversations between you and your family. (Available in English + Simplified and Traditional Chinese, Vietnamese, Spanish, Korean, Tagalog, and an English-only edition in both a physical card game and digital cards)
  • Letterloop ($0-5/month): Create private group newsletters with friends and family. Stay in touch, grow closer together, and discover things you never knew with the most important people in your life — all over email.
  • Saga ($0-99/year): An app that helps families save the life stories of loved ones. Capture and share voice memos, photos, stories, and milestones with loved ones in a beautiful and private family journal.
  • Storyworth ($99/book/year): A service that can collect your family’s favorite stories and memories and preserve them in a beautifully bound book.

What our aging parents need most from us is our quality time and presence. Our care and attention often mean far more than any gift or card we could send them.

If you're lucky enough to have a parent or two alive, call them. Don't just text or email. Call them on the phone or your favorite video chat app and ask them to tell you about their childhood, their most precious memories, their dreams, and desires. Don't forget to hit record!

An adorable screenshot I took on a FaceTime call with my parents.
Joseph J. Lam
On a mission to help people connect deeply with their parents. | CEO & Co-founder of Parents Are Human (parentsarehuman.com)