Offering an analogy to avoiding conversation through texting, Sachs noted that the answering machine was marketed 30 years ago as a device that would allow a caller to stay in touch by recording a message for someone unavailable to answer the phone.

But it quickly evolved into a way for callers to leave messages when they knew the person wasn't there, he said. This provided the illusion of making contact without having to become involved in a conversation.

"It all goes back to what level of importance we place on human relationships," Sachs said. "We must remember that adults created this culture, and this culture makes [teens and young adults] vulnerable."

Karen Stohr, an associate professor of philosophy at Georgetown University who will also participate in the forum panel, said it comes down to the moral and ethical underpinnings of society.

"What rules do we need on the use of social media, and how do those rules play out?" she asked.

"The texting thing is incredibly interesting," she said. "Nearly all of my students think it's rude to break up with someone in a text, but feel it's OK to announce someone's death" in that way.

Stohr, who lives in Montgomery County, also said teens and young adults often regard a phone call as an intrusion and feel only certain circumstances warrant such an interruption.

"What counts as intrusion has changed, and part of that is about control," she said.

David Burstein is a panelist and author of the recent book "Fast Future: How the Millennial Generation is Shaping Our World."

"Millennials don't embrace technology for technology's sake," said Burstein, founder of Generation18, an organization devoted to engaging youth in society. "They embrace technology that affects their lives.

"Facebook adds tremendous value by providing a tangible benefit and a connection to people," he said. So do Twitter, Tumblr and LinkedIn, he added. Others, such as Foursquare, a website that allows users to check in when they've arrived at a popular restaurant or other location, haven't fared as well.

But he sees an overall benefit emerging that should help ease adults' concern about the growing reliance on technology.

"Younger people are writing and reading and publishing content more than ever before, some of it shorter and some of it longer," Burstein said. "Social media isn't good or bad, but it is an undeniable force."

Rep. E. Elijah Cummings, honorary chairman of the Choose Civility board of advisers, will offer opening remarks at the event. Online registration is required at choosecivility2013symposium@eventbrite.com. For more information, call the Miller branch at 410-313-1950.