SRCD 2016
Special Topics Meeting on Technology and Media in Children's Development
Irvine, California
October 27-30

Important Dates

  • Mar 2 Submission system opens
  • Apr 6 Submission system closes
  • May 15 Doctoral Consortium Deadline
  • Aug 15 Pre-Conference Workshop Deadline
  • Oct 27 Conference begins
  • Oct 30 Conference ends


Our Invited Sessions

Using technology to understand children and adolescents’ development in a digital world.

Samuel E. Ehrenreich, Ph.D. (chair)

Amy Bellmore, Ph.D.

Candice L. Odgers, Ph.D.

Ellen Selkie, Ph.D.

Children and adolescents are increasingly using new technologies to interact with their family and friends and consume media. Although the constantly evolving technological landscape can create challenges for social scientists attempting to understand the role of technology in child development, it also presents new opportunities to capture a variety of data and gain new insight into children and adolescents’ lives. This symposium will describe a variety of methods for using technology to understand child development. The first presentation will describe how researchers can use mobile phones to obtain daily diary responses from adolescents to measure health and behavior. The second presentation will describe a technique for capturing adolescents’ social media communication exchanged on a variety of platforms (e.g. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). The third presentation will present a hand-coding system for analyzing images exchanged by adolescents on Facebook and Instagram. Finally, the fourth presentation will present a machine-learning method for analyzing very large datasets of Twitter communication. All presentations will include illustrative examples of the data that can be collected using these technological methods, and highlight how social scientists can implement these methods in their own research. Each of the presentations and the subsequent panel discussion will highlighting specific procedures, opportunities, and challenges these methods entail.

Presentation 1: Studying adolescents in “the wild”: leveraging mobile technologies to capture adolescents’ health in daily life

Candice L. Odgers, Ph.D., Duke University

Adolescents are constantly connected to their mobile devices. Close to 90% of adolescents now have access to a mobile phone and they are using them to connecct with each other and the online world frequently. Our research team has been using mobile devices over the last decade to capture the daily experiences, health, and behaviors of children and adolescents. In this talk we share the promise, and the pitfalls, of using mobile and wearable devices as tools in research with adolescents and provide a list of reliable data collection resources and tools for those interested in beginning to work in this area. New opportunities for future research, intervention efforts, and engagement with the latest generation of “digital natives” are discussed, alongside cautionary notes and lessons from the field. Information about ongoing research projects, including an expanded version of this presentation, can be found at

Presentation 2: Capturing and coding the content of adolescents’ text message and social media communication.

Samuel E. Ehrenreich, Ph.D., The University of Texas at Dallas

Many adolescents use digital forms of communication, such as text messaging and social media as their primary means of interpersonal communication; often communicating with friends and family daily, over a variety of platforms. These forms of communication provide a unique opportunity for researchers to directly observe adolescents naturalistic communication about a wide variety of topics such as peer relationships, romantic partners, substance use, academics, and sexual behaviors. This presentation will discuss techniques for capturing Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram communication and present illustrative examples of how the captured textual data can be micro-coded. Digital archive services used to capture social media communication will be described, and illustrative examples will be presented.

Presentation 3: Observing and Interpreting Adolescents’ Health-Related Content on Image-Based Social Media

Ellen Selkie, MD, MPH, University of Michigan

Social media platforms that are popular among adolescents often use images and videos in addition to text to display health-related content. This presentation will include discussion of methods for directly observing and quantifying such content using iteratively developed coding schemes. Using hand coding to analyze image-based social media can provide unique depth and context that may be missed by automated methods. Development and application of a coding scheme will be described using the social media platform Instagram as an example, and the advantages and challenges of the methodology will be discussed.

Presentation 4: Searching for Traces of Bullying on Twitter

Amy Bellmore, Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison

Social media are large-scale, near real-time, dynamic data sources that hold the promise to enrich the study of social relationships. In this talk I will discuss the use of Twitter as a data source for studying bullying and to illustrate the applicability of machine learning methods as a method for understanding the large amount of data generated with social media. Novel insights about bullying that are afforded by this approach will be discussed. These include learning about bullying episodes in out of school settings, identifying how bullying is distributed across time and geography, and hearing directly from multiple bullying role-players such as bullies, victims, and witnesses. Limitations of the methodology, including a reliance on key words and sampling text from populations about whom basic details such as age and gender are missing, will also examined.

Diversity and Access in Children's Use of Technology and Media

L. Monique Ward (chair)

Kevin Clark, George Mason University

Kimberly Scott, Arizona State University

S. Craig Watkins, The University of Texas at Austin

Brendesha Tynes, University of Southern California

Media hold a central spot in the lives of modern youth. Data indicate that youth use media for 7.5 hours a day, and these numbers are even higher for African American and Latino youth. Although a good deal of this time is spent with traditional media, such as television, music, and movies, newer media genres (e.g., reality TV) and platforms (e.g., social networking sites) have changed how youth experience media. Although the media serve many benefits, and are often used for relaxation, peer bonding, and personal expression, there may be some unintended consequences stemming from stereotypical portrayals or encounters with online discrimination. What are the media use patterns and concerns for today’s youth of color? In this symposium, we address this question with four presentations representing a range of methods and constructs. In the first talk, the focus is on portrayals of Black women and men in traditional media (TV, movies, music), and their influence on the gender beliefs and self-conceptions of Black youth. The second presentation shifts to digital media, offering findings on the nature of digital technology use via a national survey of African American families. The third presentation looks more closely at in-school and out-of-school use of digital media via an ethnographic study of lower-income youth. The final presentation shares findings from a longitudinal study of online racial discrimination and adjustment among adolescents. We conclude with discussions of limitations of existing methodologies and approaches, and indicate avenues for future research.

Presentation 1: The nature and impact of portrayals of Black women and men in TV, movies, and music

L. Monique Ward, Professor, Psychology Department, University of Michigan

Black youths’ heavy media exposure coupled with the media’s marginalized and often stereotypical treatment of African Americans have caused concern about the media’s possible impact on Black youth. One particular domain of concern are portrayals of masculinity and femininity. Analyses of television, music, and movies indicate a narrow portrait of Black masculinity and Black femininity. Here, Black men are frequently presented as hyper-masculine, violent, or criminal, and portrayals of Black women continue to reflect historical stereotypes of them as angry Sapphires or hypersexual Jezebels. In this talk, I share content analyses, survey data, and experimental results that document the nature of media portrayals of Black men and women, and their effects on the gender beliefs and self-conceptions of Black youth.

Presentation 2: A National Survey of African American Families Online

Kevin Clark, George Mason University and Kimberly Scott, Arizona State University

This report provides the results of a national study of digital technology use among African American teens and their parents, including the use of computers, smartphones, and tablets.   Until now, most data we have had about digital media use among African American youth have come from relatively small samples that have been part of broader studies comparing behaviors among young people from different racial and ethnic groups. The primary purpose of this study is to understand to what degree and in what ways African American families are using and learning with technology in their homes and communities, and to examine African American tweens and teens as digital learners and innovators.

Presentation 3: Beyond the Digital Divide: Exploring the Digital Media Practices of Black and Hispanic Youth 

S. Craig Watkins, The Moody College of Communication, The University of Texas at Austin

This talk draws from a recent ethnographic study of lower-income youth and their digital media practices.  Specifically, the presentation compares and contrasts how the students in our study used technology in-school and out-of-school.  The former practices were often school-driven, individual, and regimented while the latter practices were largely peer driven, collaborative, and creative.  Whereas educators and policy makers continue to focus on the question of access to digital media, this study illuminates why access to high-quality learning environments, informal networks, and social support are just as crucial to enhancing young people's engagement with media and technology.  More broadly, the presentation offers some perspective on how we should be thinking about youth, digital divides, and formations of social and educational inequality.

Presentation 4: Online Racial Discrimination, Adjustment and the Design of Empowering Digital Tools for Adolescents

Brendesha Tynes, Associate Professor, University of Southern California

Though scholars originally believed the Internet would erase race and associated social ills, racial discrimination is now one of the most common experiences online. This presentation will outline the most recent findings from the Teen Life Online and in Schools Project, an NIH-funded, longitudinal study of online racial discrimination and adjustment among adolescents. Results show that being denigrated because of your race online is related to depressive symptoms, anxiety and problem behavior as well as decreased academic motivation over and above offline discrimination.  Findings will be discussed within the context of a broader increase in negative race-related messages online that corresponds with the election of America’s first African American president. The presentation will also describe the design of digital tools that empower youth to critique and cope with these messages.

Born Digital: Looking at Young Children and Adolescents’ Media Use with a Developmental Lens

Rachel Barr

Dan Anderson

Brad Brown

Kaveri Subrahmanyam

Nowadays, children are raised surrounded by digital media - from television programs and tablet apps designed for very young children to social media platforms that are essential communication tools for teens’ friendships and romantic relationships. With this proliferation of media in children’s lives, developmental science is needed to consider how children at different ages think, learn, and utilize these new technologies. This session brings together four developmental scientists who will focus on the application of theories of child development to media research, with particular focus on early childhood and adolescence.

Presentation 1: The digital divide: How developmental constraints on memory influence transfer of learning from media. 

Rachel Barr 

The use of touchscreen devices among 2 to 4 year olds in the U.S. increased from 39% to 80% from 2011 to 2013 (Common Sense Media, 2013). Despite frequent engagement with these devices, it is widely recognized that children exhibit a transfer deficit, a term coined to denote children’s consistently poorer learning from television and touchscreens relative to face-to-face interaction (see Barr, 2010, 2013). I will use imitation methods to discuss the role of child experience, perceptual and cognitive constraints, transfer distance and social scaffolding on the transfer deficit and will conclude with lessons for parents and early educators regarding the strategies that may enhance learning across the dimensional divide. 

Presentation 2: Toward an Online Processing Theory of Young Children’s Screen Media Use

Dan Anderson

It is clear that very young children go through an acquisition process whereby they learn to pay attention, navigate, and comprehend screen media. Differences in the moment by moment perceptual and cognitive processes in which they engage may help explain differences between types of screen media, e.g., television versus interactive mobile devices. In this speculative talk I outline possible ways of thinking about media platforms in relation to young children. In particular, I discuss activation of the default neural systems during TV viewing, versus neural preparation for action during interactive media use. Differential patterns of brain activation may also cast light on issues such as the transfer deficit from media exhibited by very young children.

Presentation 3: Conceptualizing Adolescent Peer Relations in the “Social Media” Era 

Brad Brown

Traditionally, adolescence has been regarded as a time of major transformations in peer relations: Attention to popularity, peer pressure, and peer group membership waxes, then wanes; intimacy with and dependence on friends grows steadily, as does involvement in romantic and sexual relationships. Social media seem to have become more central to peer interactions and relationships, but scholars debate whether social media use is tangential to developmental trends in peer issues or serves to enrich or even transform the nature of peer relations. Evidence for each of these claims will be reviewed before turning attention to how theories of adolescent peer relations can adjust to the blurring of adolescents’ online and offline worlds and the rapidly changing social media environment.

Presentation 4: Studying Digital Communication to Inform Our Understanding of Adolescent Well-Being in the “Social Media” Era

Kaveri Subrahmanyam

Digital media and digital communication have become an important social context for youth. They also offer adolescent researchers an unfiltered and unique window into adolescents’ lives. I will show how researchers have capitalized on the technological affordances of digital contexts from chat rooms and blogs to social media such as Facebook and Instagram. These studies reveal that adolescents’ offline and online lives are closely connected. But, to better understand the developmental implications of digital peer communication, we need to study the longer-term associations between their well-being and offline as well as online interactions. I will use data from a retrospective study and a daily diary study to show how we can study digital communication to advance our understanding of adolescents’ lives.

Industry Panel

Brown Johnson (Moderator)

Michelle Lee

Rosemarie T. Truglio

Mindy Brooks

Laura Gatto

Alice Wilder

Brown Johnson Moderator

 Executive Vice President and Creative Director, Sesame Workshop

Brown Johnson is the Executive Vice President and Creative Director at Sesame Workshop. Johnson is responsible for the development and production of the Workshop’s domestic television content, as well as creative services. Johnson is an award-winning producer of some of the most successful children’s programs. Before joining the Workshop, she served as President of Animation and Preschool Entertainment at Nickelodeon where she managed development and production of more than 200 episodes of programming each year. Johnson pioneered the interactive format of the groundbreaking preschool programs Dora the Explorer and Blue’s Clues. She also conceived and oversaw the development of the Nickelodeon preschool block featuring hit shows including Go Diego Go!, Yo Gabba Gabba!, Team UmiZoomi, The Backyardigans, and Ni Hao Kai Lan. Johnson led the creative development to extend the preschool block online and through retail. Many of the programs she created and managed showcase characters of diverse ethnicities. Her focus on the development of multi-ethnic children’s media spurred Johnson to create fellowships in writing and art to grow the next generation of diverse creators. In Johnson’s more than 20 years with Nickelodeon, she received multiple Emmy awards, Television Critics Awards, Peabody Awards, Imagen and NAACP Image Awards. Johnson serves on the advisory board of Peter Gabriel’s WITNESS foundation, the board of governors of We Are Family Foundation, the Ambassador Council of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media and is a graduate student mentor for the USC John C. Hensch Division of Animation and Digital Arts. Johnson resides in New York and has one daughter.

Mindy Brooks Panelist

Mindy heads up the research arm of Google's kids and family initiative. Her team is focused on helping teams design and create the best products for kids and families. They focus on bringing to life the needs of kids around the world and helping teams understand learning theories and developmental principles that impact product design and vision. Prior to Google, Mindy at Netflix as the first kids and family researcher. Before that Mindy spent over 6 years at Sesame Street with her most recent role being the Director of Content & Innovation Research. She has a masters from NYU in Educational Psychology.

Laura Gatto Panelist

Laura has more than 15 years of experience as a multimedia producer and editor, with an extensive background and expertise in production, design, and instruction. Her passion for creating thoughtful, interactive learning experiences for children informs her role at BrainPOP, where she serves as Instructional Product Designer. In that capacity, she oversaw the development of one of the company’s most popular new features, the concept mapping tool Make-a-Map. Currently, she is working on a tool that will enable students to make their own BrainPOP-inspired videos. Laura holds a graduate degree in Digital Media Designs for Learning from NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture and Education, where she focused on Games for Learning. She earned a bachelor’s degree in Film & Television from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, and an Associate’s degree in Early Childhood Education from Norwalk Community College in CT. Her two sons, ages 7 and 9, continue to be a prime source of inspiration.

Michelle Lee Panelist

Michelle leads the Design for Play Team, an integrated team of researchers, designers, and developers bringing engaging, interactive and playful experiences to market. Their work includes beloved children’s apps Balloonimals and Monster Moves as well as partnering with respected brands like Sesame Workshop, Fisher-Price and Leapfrog to co-create favorite apps such as the top-ranking Elmo Calls. She is a huge proponent for integrating playful elements not only in toys and apps, but also in the broader context of our daily experiences, regularly contributing to IDEO consulting projects that span industries ranging from education to transportation. Throughout her career, Michelle has been driven by a desire to bring thoughtful solutions to fruition through user-centered design. Designing toys at VTech and University Games fueled her passion for play, while lead product roles at thredUP and ShopWell – a health and nutrition IDEO spinout – ignited her spirit of entrepreneurship. Her IDEO tenure includes design research and product design roles, influencing products and services across food and beverage, consumer products, education, entertainment and retail. Michelle holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering and an MS in the Joint Program for Design from Stanford University, where she’s also served as an instructor.

Rosemarie T. Truglio Panelist

Rosemarie T. Truglio is the Senior Vice President of Curriculum and Content at Sesame Workshop. Dr. Truglio is responsible for the development of the interdisciplinary curriculum on which Sesame Street is based and oversees content development across platforms (e.g., television, publishing, toys, home video, and theme park activities). Previously, Dr. Truglio managed an interdisciplinary global content team responsible for all global co-productions and content development across all media platforms, including digital media. From 1997 to 2013, she oversaw all educational research pertaining to program development, the results of which informed both the production and creative decisions for how to enhance the entertaining and educational components of linear and interactive content. Before joining Sesame Workshop in 1997, she was an Assistant Professor of Communication and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Dr. Truglio has written numerous articles in child and developmental psychology journals and presented her work at national and international conferences. Additionally, she is co-editor of “G is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on Children and Sesame Street” (2001) published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates. Dr. Truglio has appeared on numerous broadcast, cable, and radio news and talk programs, including “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” “CNN’s Headline News and Sanjay Gupta. MD,” “Showbiz Tonight,” NPR’s “Morning Edition,” and has been interviewed by reporters from a variety of national newspapers and news agencies. Dr. Truglio currently serves on several advisory boards: the NSF REESE grant entitled Collaborative Research: Using Educational DVDs to Enhance Preschooler’s STEM Education; and Lego Foundation Research & Innovation Network on Learning Through Play. She previously served on the National Advisory Child Health and Human Development Council (NICHD); the PBS KIDS Next Generation Media; the Children’s Digital Media Center Advisory Board; the National Association for Media Literacy Education; PlayAbility Scale Board/Parent’s Choice Foundation; and The Ultimate Block Party/Learn Now. Dr. Truglio received a Ph.D. in Developmental and Child Psychology from the University of Kansas, and a B.A in Psychology from Douglass College, Rutgers University. She received distinguished alumni awards from Douglass College (2005), University of Kansas (2013) and Rutgers University (2014).

Alice Wilder Panelist

Dr. Alice serves as the educational advisor responsible for developing the Amazon Kids Original Programming learning approach and is helping implement Amazon's unique educational point of view into the development of new series. In this role, she is also an Emmy Award winning Co-Executive Producer and Head of Educational Development for Tumble Leaf, Co-Executive Producer and Head of Educational Development for The Stinky and Dirty Show, Co-Creator and Executive Producer of Creative Galaxy on Amazon Instant Video. In addition, she is the Chief Learning Officer for Speakaboos, a kid-centric, cross-publisher literacy platform. She also is the Co-Creator and Executive Producer of Cha-Ching Money Smart Kids the “School House Rock” of financial literacy for 7-12 year olds, airing in Asia on Cartoon Network. Dr. Alice is co-creator and head of research and education for Super WHY! on PBS Kids, and served as a Producer and the Director of Research and Development for Nick Jr.’s Blue’s Clues. And she is a senior fellow at the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media. She continues to advise the Kids & Creativity group in Pittsburgh, bringing kids and their point of view to help support educators, technologists, and makers as Kidsburgh creates a model and movement around the integration of the arts, sciences, and technology to inspire creative learning and play. Her groundbreaking work in formative research was cited in The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. Alice bases her work in formative research on the philosophy that ‘the only way to understand what children are capable of doing, what appeals to them, and what they know, is to ask them!’

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