PASADENA — On Saturday, March 23rd, 2019, AGBU Hye Geen held its 13th annual conference, focusing on “Parenting in The Digital Age.” This year’s conference aimed to address the growing concern of students’ attachment to their phones, something that is seen at home and at schools. The conference took place at AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian Center’s newly built theater complex. Registration began at 9:00a.m., and the conference itself began at 10:00a.m. Mrs. Sona Yacoubian gave the opening remarks, along with a concise history of AGBU Hye Geen and its accomplishments.

The first speaker, Shakeh Yegavian, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, has worked for over twenty years at the Glen Robert’s Child Study Center and is now working in a private practice. Ms. Yegavian opened the discussion as the moderator for the first panel, composing of two teens and a mother. She spoke about growing up in the pre-digital age and raising two daughters in the pre-digital age. Ms. Yegavian asked the panel a series of questions, including if the youth think they would be more productive without their phones, if their phones have affected their relationships with others, and if social media has put the youth in a position to compare themselves to others. These questions were more geared towards the youth, but the parent volunteer was asked questions as well, such as what she would remove from technology if she could, and if she uses modern technology for discipline purposes.

This panel was then followed by the first speaker, Dr. Armine Movsisyan, an educator and past principal of AGBU Vatche & Tamar Manoukian High School. Dr. Movsisyan earned her Doctor of Education degree in Educational Leadership with a focus in teacher education from the University of Southern California, leadership training from Harvard Graduate School of Education, and her Tier I and Tier II Administrative Credentials from CSULB and UCLA/UC Berkley, respectively. She is currently the director of curriculum, instruction, learning, and innovation, as well as the superintendent at Intellectual Virtues Academy. She began her presentation with a discussion about what the audience’s vision is for technology, then moved towards a discussion about social media and how it has become a true addiction. This was followed with the effects of the addiction the youth faces on their education and their success overall. Dr. Movsisyan concluded her presentation by solidifying the idea of preparing the youth to be smart users of technology, and the significance of technology in the changing society today.

The second speaker of the conference was Nora Chitilian-Keleshian, a practicing Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, who works in both a private practice in Glendale, and is an independent contractor at the Glendale Unified School District. She also works as a school-based counselor at various private Armenian schools, a board member at Richard Tufenkian Armenian Preschool, one of the founders of the Armenian Autism Outreach Project, and a co-founder and social skills teacher at Camp Zavarian. She began her presentation with a statistic that many audience members found to be shocking—one out of seven teens deal with some form of anxiety.

Technology has played a large role in the rise of anxiety among teens, more specifically social media. The important things to remember when parenting in the digital age are to model behaviors for the youth, for example, if a parent expects their child to not use their phone at the dinner table, then neither should the parent; goal-oriented parenting is the second key topic she spoke about, stating that goals should drive the relationships between parent and child.

The first two speakers were then brought back onto the stage for a question and answer period, where the audience had the opportunity to ask any questions, they had during morning session of the conference. Shake Yegavian served as the mediator once again, and also took part in answering questions asked. The questions that were discussed include the recommended age for the youth to have phones, the role of fathers in this issue, and the effects of phone addiction in the classroom. This session was followed by a lunch break, which gave audience members another chance to ask questions to the speakers as well as discuss the topic with others.

Following the lunchbreak, Dr. Edrick Dorian, a board certified clinical and police psychologist with the Los Angeles Police Department and in private practice in Encino, spoke about cyberbullying and the great responsibility and power that comes with technology. He opened with the definition of cyberbullying, and explained that in some extreme cases, cyberbullying can be deemed as criminal. Dr. Dorian compared the use of a digital device to be as powerful as a firearm, as both come with a great level of responsibility. He reminded the audience that bullying is not always done by bad kids but are just bad choices. Technology has a significant impact on the youth, and to the surprise of many in the audience, video games and online videos are teaching the youth skills and mentalities that are often overlooked. He pulls from recent news of the New Zealand terror attack to show a comparison of video games to the video streamed by the terrorist, shocking the entire audience.

Dr. Dorian’s presentation was followed by a second question and answer session, allowing members of the audience to ask any remaining questions before the end of the conference. Closing remarks were given by Talin Yacoubian, AGBU Western District Chair. She reflects on her childhood, growing up in the pre-digital age and compares them with her parenting styles for her two children. She closed the conference by thanking AGBU Hye Geen, the speakers, and audience for another academically triumphant conference. The conference was organized and carried out with great professionalism from both AGBU Hye Geen and Hye Geen Young Circle.
Arvin Demerjian

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