Promise and Peril: The Impact of Technology on Children, Schools and Communities

April 25, 2012
Invitational Research Colloquium
Fairmont Hotel Macdonald, Empire Ballroom


Emerging technologies are paradoxical in that they hold both promise and peril for individuals, families and communities. At a time of rapid technological change, those who work with children, families, schools and communities need to understand the effects of online digital activities for offline health and mental wellbeing.

This invitational research colloquium held in April 2012 was sponsored by the Alberta Teachers’ Association, in partnership with the Alberta Centre for Child, Family and Community Research. It was a one day intensive conversation with approximately 150 delegates from over 70 different groups/organizations. The colloquium explored the psychosocial and physiological impacts of technology on children and youth.

A ‘colloquium’ by definition pulls together diverse specialities in an area where there is a shared research interest. Representatives at this event were drawn from specialist councils of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, research scholars from multiple universities, health sector professionals, Government of Alberta officials from Human Services, Alberta Education and the Department of Justice, Alberta Teachers’ Association officials, College of Alberta Superintendents, Alberta School Boards Association, Alberta School Councils Association, community representatives, business leaders, and our distinguished keynote speakers from Harvard Medical School and the University of Bristol Neuroscience.

The colloquium had three intended outcomes:
• To consider the extent to which technologies are (re)shaping the minds and bodies of children and youth.
• To identify the issues, perspectives and contentions emerging from current research.
• To generate key questions to guide policy decisions and future research on emerging technologies, learning, teaching and the wellbeing of children and youth.

Below you will find the colloquium program and working journal, presentations from our distinguished speakers, and video highlights from an evening public lecture and live webcast.

Videos of the Evening Public Lectures

Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from a River of Electronic Screens
Dr. Michael Rich, Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and Associate Professor of Society, Human Development, and Health at Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, United States
The Impact of Digital Technologies on Human Wellbeing
Dr. Paul Howard Jones, Senior Neuroscientist and Lecturer in Education at University of Bristol, United Kingdom
 A Brief Summary Article - Are the tools we live through reshaping us?
 Alberta Primetime Video Segment - Long-Term Impacts of Technology
Program and Working Journal (Interactive PDF)
Presentation Slides 
 Dr. Michael Rich - Finding Huck Finn: Reclaiming Childhood from a River of Electronic Screens (PDF)
 Dr. Paul Howard-Jones – The Impact of Digital Technologies on Human Wellbeing (PDF)
 Dr. Valerie Steeves - Privacy and Child Protection Online: Finding the Balance (PDF)
 Dr. Jane O’Dea - Relationships and Identity in the Digital Age (PDF)
 Dr. Michele Jacobsen 
 Alberta Teachers' Association Research
 Alberta Centre for Child Family and Community Research
 Centre on Media and Child Health
 Center on Media and Child Health. “Ask the Mediatrician.” This Q&A blog about parenting in the media age is available at
 Howard-Jones, P. 2011. What Is the Internet Doing to Our Brains? Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce Nominet Trust Lecture. 
 Turkle, S. 2012. Sherry Turkle: Connected, But Alone? TED Talks.
 Brockman, J, ed. 2011. Is the Internet Changing the Way You Think? New York: HarperCollins.
 Howard-Jones, P, and K Fenton. 2011. Digital Technology and the Brain: A Guide for the Online Family. NeuroEducational Services.
 Kelly, K. 2010. What Technology Wants. New York: Penguin Group.
 Turkle, S. 2011. Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. New York: Basic Books.
Academic Publications 
 Center on Media and Child Health. 2012. Database of Scientific Research on Media Effects.
 Cviko, A, S McKenney and J Voogt. 2012. “Teachers Enacting a Technology-Rich Curriculum for Emergent Literacy.” Educational Technology Research and Development 60, no 1: 31–54.
 Deresiewicz, W. 2009. “The End of Solitude.” The Chronicle of Higher Education. Available at
 McRae, P, S Varnhagen and B Arkinson. 2012. Examining the Impact of Flexible and Digitally Mediated Learning Environments on Teachers’ Conditions of Professional Practice. Proceedings of the American Education Research Association Annual Conference. Vancouver, British Columbia: AERA.
 Media Awareness Network of Canada. 2012. Young Canadians in a Wired world.
 Rich M. 2009. “Virtual Sexuality: The Influence of Entertainment Media on Sexual Behavior.” In Managing the Media Monster: The Influence of Media (From Television to Text Messages) on Teen Sexual Behavior and Attitudes. Ed. Jane Brown, Washington, DC: National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, p 18–28.