UW News

March 9, 2006

‘Images of Youth’ conference to address media literacy

New technologies are changing the ways we live and work, and few are more excited about these changes than teens and pre-teens. How are these changes affecting young people today? How have they affected the ways in which people work with youth?

Such questions are at the heart of “Images of Youth: New Directions in Media Literacy and Teen Health,” a conference being held by the UW’s Northwest Center for Excellence in Media Literacy March 20-21 in the HUB.

“Media literacy education is happening across the country but it’s still not something that people know a lot about,” said Marilyn Cohen, director of the center and the conference’s main organizer. “This is a chance for people to learn what it’s all about.”

Media literacy, as described in conference mateials, “teaches our youth to take a critical second look at all media, from film to Web environments. It is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate and communicate in both print and electronic formats.”

The “Images of Youth” conference will bring together nationally known experts on advertising, nutrition and media literacy to analyze the effect of media on young people.

The keynote speakers and their presentations will be:

  • Jean Kilbourne, an author, filmmaker and commentator who examines the effects of advertising on young people, will discuss “Deadly Persuasion: Advertising and Addiction.”
  • Margo Wootan, director nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Nutrition Policy Project, which works with government and nonprofits to strengthen local, state and national programs that promote nutrition and physical activity, will discuss “Countering Junk Food Marketing to Kids.”
  • Lee Burton, educator, author, researcher, media critic and one of the founders of the Australian Teachers of Media, a leading organization in media literacy education, will present “Media Literacy as an Essential Leaning: Australia’s Education Revolution.”

The expressed goals of the conference are to increase awareness of media literacy education, share new resources, developments and research and to present practical applications and materials for those who work with young people.

Cohen said the aim is not to protect young people against media excesses, but to expand communicaiton and give them the appropriate critical thinking skills as they consume and participate in the burgeoning media culture.

“We’re trying to make them critical consumers of media, all forms of media, so they really think about problem-solving and analysis of what it is they are looking at. They can become critical thinkers, so that it’s not just about entertainment.”

And as the blog and cyber cultures expand, Cohen said, media is growing to a whole new level. “It’s also about producing your own media, because now we have the tools in our homes.

“But the question is, what are they going to do with those tools? Use them to create more kinds of things they already see, or to actually express themselves in a creative way?”

Breakout sessions in the two-day conference will include:

  • Several sessions on media literacy: The latest research, assessing student learning, community-based strategies for taking action and incorporating media literacy into core subjects;
  • Nutrition and how children’s food choices are portrayed in the media;
  • The online culture and its effects on teen sexuality and media literacy;
  • Tobacco use in the movies and effects on youth;
  • Research on youth and video gaming;
  • Diversity and media representation;
  • The FCC, media consolidation and the consumer.

The conference, which is funded by the Washington State Department of Health, is aimed at health professionals, educators, prevention and intervention specialists, parents and others who work with teens.

Cohen also said faculty might consider encouraging their students to attend the conference “to find out something that maybe isn’t covered directly in their classes, or is an extension of material they touched on briefly.”

For more information about “Images of Youth,” call the Northwest Center for Excellence in Media Literacy at 206-543-9414 or visit online at http://depts.washington.edu/nwmedia/.