Dr. Pamela Hurst-Della Pietra established Children and Screens: The Institute of Digital Media and Child Development in 2013. Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra is a philanthropist, youth advocate, and Clinical Assistant Professor in Health Care Policy and Management at the School of Health Technology and Management at Stony Brook Medicine. She created the Institute as the principle vehicle through which she and others could address three urgent questions:
1. How is digital media enhancing or impairing children’s ability to live happy, healthy, and productive lives?
2. How are years of electronically mediated interactions shaping children’s physical, cognitive, emotional, and social development?
3. What should we do about it?
The Institute promotes objective, inclusive, integrative scientific research by scholars with diverse perspectives from all relevant disciplines. In this way, it facilitates collaborative achievements beyond the reach of any one kind of expert.
The “Digital Media and Developing Minds” Conference took place October 14 – 16, 2015, at the Beckman Center of the National Academy of Sciences in Irvine, California. Although the conference was the Institute’s first large-scale program, it reflected years of prior work. Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra’s efforts in this field began with a review of the scholarly literature. Then, she identified leading researchers and clinicians in the field. She met individually with scores of them, and recruited the Institute’s Advisory Board members and the distinguished institutions and individuals with whom she planned and executed this event. The conference was co-sponsored by the Sackler Colloquia of the National Academy of Sciences, and co-hosted by Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra, Dr. David Meyer of the University of Michigan, and Dr. Jane Brown, Professor Emeritus of the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill.
Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra and the other conference organizers gathered almost two hundred leading thinkers for this conference, representing fields including:
- Developmental Psychology
- Cognitive Science
- Pediatric Medicine
- Public Policy
They included five featured speakers, twenty moderators, facilitators, and thirty-two panelists, representing more than one hundred-fifty universities and other research institutions, governmental bodies, professional organizations, and content and technology companies.
The conference employed a variety of program formats to generate a high volume of high-quality information and to promote the formation of new collaborative relationships. These formats included traditional lectures and panel discussions, academic poster sessions and poster-based “flash talks”, “town hall” style participatory events, extensive question-and-answer sessions, and numerous informal opportunities to gather, mingle, compare notes, and initiate collaborative relationships. In this way, Dr. Hurst-Della Pietra and her collaborators capitalized on the diverse strengths of the people they attracted to this conference.