Panel discussion featured Author and Child Psychologist Yalda Uhls, MBA, PhD and David Anderson, PhD, Child Mind Institute’s Director of Programs

Los Angeles – The Child Mind Institute today hosted its inaugural L.A. Luncheon, featuring a panel discussion “Parenting in the Digital Age: Kids, Media and Healthy Development,” highlighting the impact of technology on family communication and the effect that it has on the mental health of today’s social media-fixated youth. The event was moderated by actress and comedian Ali Wentworth and featured Yalda Uhls, MBA, PhD, author of Media Moms and Digital Dads: A Fact Not Fear Approach to Parenting in the Digital Age and adjunct professor in child psychology at UCLA and Senior Advisor, Youth Development at Common Sense Media; and David Anderson, PhD, clinical psychologist and Senior Director, ADHD and Disruptive Behavior Disorders Center at the Child Mind Institute.

Technology is transforming the way we communicate with friends, colleagues and our families. Screens now affect everything from the way toddlers learn and develop to how teenagers connect with their peers, parents and the world. “It is very hard to learn how to communicate non-verbally when you’re texting all the time,” said Dr. Uhls. A study Dr. Uhls conducted found that the screens are not eliminating the ability to understand one another, but, that face to face time is important and that it is the best way to learn empathy for others’ emotions. First and foremost, Dr. Uhls said, “parents should be a role model by putting down their phones.”

Dr. Anderson explained that parents cannot tell kids not to communicate via text because today’s kids, through cell phones and social media, can express their personalities through texting. “Kids who grow up with this stuff say that their friends come across with their personalities in text messages.” Dr. Anderson says you need to be fluent in that medium of expression, but also be fluent in empathic reading of non-verbals, which comes from what you do in the no-screen time.

The panelists spoke about multitasking with multiple screen usage. “Multitasking is the new normal,” said Dr. Uhls. She noted that “everyone multitasks. For low level thinking tasks, multitasking is not necessarily a negative thing. It may take longer to finish your homework, but it does not affect the outcome. But, for deep thinking tasks, such as writing a paper, multitasking can take away from the deep thinking that is needed…you can do 2-3 things at once, as long as one of those tasks does not require all your focus. Teach your kid that when they have to focus on a paper, they need to focus on the paper and put the phone away.”

Panelists discussed how kids today are changing their images on social media by using new applications that can completely alter one’s appearance, and whether or not that can contribute to, or be a sign of, significant problems. “If you are worried about an eating pathology, for example, for a teenager, you look for symptoms of eating disorders,” said Dr. Anderson. “The fact is that we worry about these apps and we worry about body attitudes around them, but we have to still look out for actual symptoms.”

The luncheon was co-chaired by members of the Child Mind Institute Board of Directors, Linnea Roberts and Julie Minskoff. Other notable attendees included Jane Nathanson, Nanci Rascoff, Meg Resnikoff, Susie Comisar, Patty Penske, Jane Buckingham, Rochelle Gores Fredston, and Michelle Kydd Lee.

The luncheon and other events like it are part of the Child Mind Institute’s public education mission, giving families and professional’s accurate information at no cost about mental health and learning disorders and how to find effective treatment.

About the Child Mind Institute

The Child Mind Institute is an independent national nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Our teams work every day to deliver the highest standards of care, advance the science of the developing brain, and empower parents, professionals and policymakers with resources to support children when and where they need it most. Together with our supporters, we’re helping children reach their full potential in school and in life. We share all of our resources freely and do not accept any funding from the pharmaceutical industry. Learn more at childmind.org.