Venturing out of Rancho Mirage, CA, The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands convened a retreat in Tarrytown, NY on October 4 to 6, 2012 with the New York Center for Living (NYCFL), a state-of-the-art family recovery center dedicated to adolescents and young adults suffering from substance abuse and addiction.
Over three days, Empowering Parents of Adolescents and Young Adults with Substance Abuse Issues to Navigate Our Digital Media-Saturated Society, held at the Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center, brought together top-level participants from the worlds of technology and media–Google+, Verizon, Gaggle–education, and public policy, including Steve Cohen, who worked on Internet issues when he was chief of staff for NY Governor Andrew Cuomo. Top-level clinicians, academics, and researchers were also key participants. To further educate retreat participants on adolescents and technology, the Westchester County chapter of Teen Angels, a national group of teenagers trained by WiredSafety.org in peer-to-peer education about online safety, privacy, and security to help make the Internet safer, made a special presentation.
Geoffrey Cowan, then-president of The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands, served as moderator for the “Sunnylands Process” sessions, encouraging the review of goals and objectives, assessment of progress, and crafting a follow-up plan. The Sunnylands Process is an effort to insure that Sunnylands retreats result in solutions or a method to achieve them.
Having set ambitious goals, the group focused on the need to educate parents on how digital media can both positively and negatively affect adolescents in recovery and how technologists and experts have employed research and special projects to assist with other similar challenges facing society. Four taskforces were created to develop and execute action plans, including the development of a comprehensive resource of treatment and recovery forms; a manual on issues of technology and juvenile addiction; a way to support adolescents in recovery through technology; and a public awareness campaign about substance abuse and its relationship to digital media. The plan is to have task forces present their progress and explore additional related projects at a meeting in fall 2013.
According to Dr. Jill Backfield, executive director and director of clinical services of NYCFL, “The participants brought a huge amount of energy and experience to the meeting. I am sure this initial first step will lead to the creation of essential information, safety measures, and necessary tools that will guide and empower parents and be extremely important to their adolescent and young adult children contending with substance abuse issues.”
Cinny Kennard, senior advisor to President Cowan, managed the retreat, working closely with the partners, Dr Backfield and Elizabeth Kabler, founder of NYCFL and a Sunnylands Trustee; and the NY-based management firm Berger Strategies to define retreat needs and content
The Annenberg Foundation Trust at Sunnylands was founded in 2001 to address important issues facing the nation and the world. The Trust established The Annenberg Retreat at Sunnylands to serve as a sanctuary for generations of high-level national and world leaders seeking the privacy, the peace, and “the pause” needed to address the most pressing issues of the day.