Regina Ahn

Regina Ahn
Assistant Professor

Department of Strategic Communication, School of Communication, University of Miami


What are you currently working on?

I am currently working on interviewing Korean YouTube Kid content creators to explore their communication and content strategies. I am fortunate enough to collaborate with Dr. Joonghwa Lee at the University of North Dakota and Ms. Daun Choi, a CEO of Norit Co. Ms. Choi is an industry personnel who is also an established YouTuber and educator highly engaging with teachers and parents. Due to the new COPPA and FTC rules, advertisers cannot collect data from children under the age of 13 without their parents’ consent. This means that owners of channels directed at children are not able to profit from personalized ads and communicate with viewers through comments. Due to this new policy, the revenues of YouTuber content creators and even kids’ channels plummeted significantly, especially in South Korea. Thus, we were very intrigued by several changes in the business and communication strategies of Korean edutainment YouTube channels and their constant efforts to deliver quality content to child audiences. It is a daunting project because we need to recruit content creators for the research. Still, every meeting and conversation is valuable because this is a rare opportunity to hear content creators’ perspectives. I feel grateful for being a member of this research team.

Another project that I am planning and working on is international research teamed up with Dr. Beatriz Feijoo at the International University of La Rioja. We plan to propose research to understand children’s advertising literacy in Spanish-speaking territories with different conditions of digital and social development, including Spain and Miami, FL. I am very appreciative of the opportunity to be a part of this international research project, connecting media/advertising literacy and culture.

What has been your most memorable project so far, and why?

If somebody were to ask me about the most memorable project in my life, I will pick my first qualitative research at the University of Illinois. This qualitative research class project was guided by my advisor, Dr. Michelle Renee Nelson, and inspired my first independent research and dissertation ideas. This project aimed to understand how preschool-aged children perceive visual cues on fruit snack packages and help them make healthier food choices. I was one of the interviewers of the project, which required 10 hours of rapport-building with an interviewee. I was amazed to see how much children enjoyed interacting with licensed cartoon characters on the packages above any other elements. After this project, I was motivated to study the influence of various types of media on children’s food decisions. This project always reminds me of how children are bright, smart, and insightful.

Which achievement are you most proud of, and why?

One of the achievements I am most proud of is being a part of an interdisciplinary research project – “JUS Media? Programme” (PI: Dr. Gail M. Ferguson, University of Minnesota), which I have continued since I was a doctoral student. This was the first collaborative research project on a big scale with three different universities. It was a fantastic opportunity to learn how a research team on a large scale works with every investigator and graduate assistants. The “J(amaican and) U(nited) S(tates) Media? Programme,” or “JUS Media? Programme” for short, was a transdisciplinary global health intervention designed to investigate and educate the impact of U.S. food advertising on Jamaican youth and parents in Jamaica. Jamaican youth have learned and internalized American culture through remote acculturation, particularly unhealthy eating habits. Multiple methods were employed to capture the complex food advertising landscape in Jamaica. Mainly of U.S. origin, energy-dense processed foods, sodas, and fast-food restaurants dominated food and beverage ads in Kingston, Jamaica. Less healthy foods were more likely to use global and standardized communication strategies, while local Jamaican brands were likely to highlight their Jamaican identity, values, and lifestyles. 

After the “JUS Media? Programme,” I was thankfully invited as a co-investigator for the Food, Culture, and Health Study, another transdisciplinary global health intervention designed for U.S. Black refugee and immigrant families in the U.S. I have been involved in the project as a content expert in parental mediation, advertising, and persuasion knowledge. Unfortunately, just after we secured funding from the University of Minnesota, the COVID-19 pandemic hit the U.S., and our research team could not avoid its impact. Since these U.S. Black refugee and immigrant communities are collectivistic and risk-aversive, recruiting participants online was challenging even with cultural brokers from each community. However, thankfully, we finished collecting data via an online survey with the assistance of local community leaders. We also conducted in-depth interviews with youth survey participants. It was such a wonderful experience as a junior faculty member to join this big-scale research project with experienced mentors.

What is an important question from parents and practitioners that we as academics cannot provide a good answer to yet?

There are many lingering questions that are yet to have definite answers. One of the unsolved questions is, “how can we assist and guide children to establish a healthy online-offline life balance?” Children’s increasing screen time and smartphone addiction have been the most frequently asked parenting questions so far. Although scholars have shared advice regarding parental mediation, every household has different family situations. However, screen time among children increased during COVID-19 and remained high even after COVID-19 precautions were lifted. Some children don’t even know how to socialize with other peers and are reluctant to have playtime in person. Due to digital technology, it is getting easier to meet friends remotely. Still, some scholars are concerned about children losing real-life social connectedness because they put more value on online interactions rather than offline.

What would be your work motto?

“Each step is a step forward – you will arrive.” Sometimes, we get stuck because of negative emotions, stress, and lethargy. However, we should not give up doing things. Writing a sentence per day leads you to complete a whole project someday. 

Which of your publications is your favorite, and why?

I will pick an article published in Journal of Children and Media (JCM), which explores how caregivers perceive and mediate preschool-aged children’s books. This study was the first independent study that inspired my dissertation. Through two qualitative studies, non-participant observation at the public library, and in-depth interviews, I was able to observe how characters in books are an important medium for young children’s imaginative plays and social interaction with their family and friends. In addition, it was wonderful to meet numerous parents and children and learn practical ways to choose and read books together at a library and at home.

If you had unlimited resources, what kind of project would you want to do and why?

If I had unlimited resources, I would like to launch a media literacy project for children, families, and community people who yet do not have access to digital literacy resources. Unfortunately, some children and families lack resources and knowledge regarding digital media and new emerging technology. However, they cannot escape misinformation, digital hate speech, cancel culture or privacy issues. With experienced media literacy educators in the world, I would like to launch a global media literacy program so that all the communities in need can freely join and learn.

If you had to give one piece of advice to young CAM scholars, what would it be?

My advice to young CAM scholars is “to have a healthy body and mind.” Many junior scholars, including graduate students and assistant professors, have been stressed with their graduation, dissertation, and the tenure process. I also sometimes fall into a vicious loophole of doubting and denying what I have accomplished. To escape the negativity, I encourage young CAM scholars to find a way to maintain their physical and mental well-being, by doing activities such as exercising, cooking, meditating, or spending time with loved ones. They can also reach out to experienced scholars in the CAM community, as CAM scholars can be very supportive not only in research but also in sharing life experiences.

Who would you like to put in the spotlight next, and why?

I recommend Dr. Andrew Zi Han Yee, an assistant professor at the Singapore University of Technology and Design. We first met through the Raising Digital Youth (RDY) Research Hub, and I have admired his research which lies in the interaction between digital technology and child development. Andrew is one of the growing scholars in children and media research, and he fits nicely into the CAMmer Spotlight series.