POV Youth Views Manager Irene VillasenorIrene Villaseñor is POV’s Youth Views manager. She was recently inspired by some presentations at a conference on youth media and education around the world. She writes in to share her thoughts.

Last weekend I attended Media: Overseas Conversations 5, an International Conference on Media, Education and Youth. Media educators from the Middle East, Asia, Australia and Europe shared information on their programs and the current challenges they face.
Media: Overseas ConversationsThis event was an opportunity to learn how nations with histories of state control and censorship are creating spaces for young people to think critically about media. One of the most compelling presentations was by Hyeon-Seon Jeong, a professor from the Gyeongin National University of Education, who shared the difficulties of teaching a subject that can be frightening for established institutions.

Similar to those in the U.S., most media literacy programs in Korea are taught by media activists, workers and artists through extracurricular and after-school programs. Ms. Jeong described some of the varying definitions of “media literacy” among practitioners. One group is the “protectionists,” who are concerned about media’s potential to be a destructive force: they advocate for young people to limit their time with media. For example, the government is concerned with video game addiction among people in their teens and twenties as a public health issue, sparked by the death in 2005 of a 28-year-old South Korean man who collapsed after playing an online video game for 50 hours. Another group is the activists who see media’s ability to foster civic engagement — recently, young people have used online networks to organize protests of the government’s policy to import American beef, using digital cameras and mobile phones to document and disseminate evidence of their activities. And then there are educators who want to prioritize the development of communication skills. Ms. Jeong has collaborated with language education teachers on a curriculum that looked critically at commercials and websites. But she raised the question, is it possible to teach media literacy divorced from social and political practices?

If you would like to get involved in this international dialogue, mark your calendars for 2010. That’s when the World Summit on Media for Children and Youth is happening in Karlstad, Sweden. Their call for proposals is still open. You can also email info[at]wskarlstad2010.se.