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Photograph of Kathryn Montgomery

Kathryn Montgomery Prof Emerita School of Communication

BA, American Studies, California State University, Los Angeles;
MA, Mass Communication, California State University, Northridge;
PhD, Film and Television, University of California, Los Angeles

Kathryn Montgomery has written and published extensively about the role of media in society, addressing a variety of topics, including: the politics of entertainment television; youth engagement with digital media; and contemporary advertising and marketing practices. In addition to numerous journal articles, chapters, and reports, she is author of two books: Target: Prime Time – Advocacy Groups and the Struggle over Entertainment Television (Oxford University Press, 1989); and Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet (MIT Press, 2007). Before moving to Washington, D.C. in 1990, she taught television and media at the University of California, Los Angeles and California State University, Los Angeles.

Throughout her career, Montgomery's research, writing, and testimony have helped frame the national public policy debate on a range of critical media issues. From 1991-2003, she was co-founder and President of the nonprofit Center for Media Education, where she spearheaded a national campaign that led to passage of the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the first federal legislation to protect children's privacy on the Internet.

Until her retirement from American University in 2018, Dr. Montgomery was founding director of the PhD Program in Communication.
For the Media
To request an interview for a news story, call AU Communications at 202-885-5950 or submit a request.

Scholarly, Creative & Professional Activities

Research Interests

  • How children are using new digital media
  • Current policy debates over issues such as privacy, intellectual property, network neutrality, and marketing
  • Ways in which youth are using the Internet to engage in the political process
  • Recent trends in interactive marketing
  • Entertainment media and media criticism

Grants and Sponsored Research

  • "Public Interest Framework for Protecting Consumer Privacy in the Health Wearables Industry." Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 2015-2016.
  • "Digital Privacy Framework for Children and Teens in the Big Data Era." Digital Trust Founjdation. 2015-2016.
  • "Digital Food Marketing and Childhood Obesity." Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  2007-present.
  • “Digital Marketing of Alcohol and Tobacco.” Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Substance Abuse Policy Research Program. 2008-2009.
  • “E-Citizens: Youth and the Future of Democratic Media in the Digital Age.” Ford Foundation.  2003-2005.
  • “Youth as Online Actors for Digital Media Policy and Civic Engagement.” Surdna Foundation.  2003-2004.
  • “Youth as E-Citizens: the Internet and Youth Civic Engagement.” Center for Research on Civic Learning and Engagement (CIRCLE).  2002-2003. 

Media Appearances

Radio Interviews:

  • Technology and the Meaning of Childhood,” Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU. Washington, D.C., February 26, 2008.
  • “Protecting Children’s Privacy Online,” Kojo Nnamdi Show, WAMU, Radio, October 9, 2012.
  • "FTC: Apps For Children Raise Privacy Concerns," National Public Radio, Morning Edition, Radio, December 11, 2012.


Recent Press Interviews:

  • Natasha Singer, "A Trail of Clicks, Culminating in Conflict," New York Times, November 5, 2012.
  • Cecilia Kang, "When is a kids' online game actually an ad?”  Washington Post, November 2, 2012.

Public Testimony:


Selected Publications


  • Generation Digital: Politics, Commerce, and Childhood in the Age of the Internet. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).
  • Target: Prime Time.  Advocacy Groups and the Struggle Over Entertainment Television.  (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989).

Articles, Reports, and Chapters:

  • “Creating a Media Policy Agenda for the Digital Generation,” Amit M. Schejter, Ed., …And Communications for All: A Policy Agenda for the New Administration. (Lexington Books: Lanham, MD, 2008).
  • “Youth and Digital Democracy: Intersections of Practice, Policy, and the Marketplace,” W. Lance Bennett, Ed., Civic Life Online. (MIT Press, 2007).
  • “Food Marketing to Children in the New Digital Marketing Ecosystem,” Karin M. Ekstrom and Brigitte Tufte, Eds., Children, Media and Consumption. On the Front Edge.  (Nordicom, 2007). 
  • “Media Education in the United States: Stakeholder Groups, Issues, and Trends,” (UNESCO, 2007).
  • “Youth as E-Citizens: The Internet’s Contribution to Civic Engagement,” David Buckingham and Rebekah Willett, Eds., Digital Generations: Children, Young People, and New Media. (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006).
  • “Advocating Children’s Television,” J. Alison Bryant and Jennings Bryant, Eds., The Children’s Television Community: Institutional, Critical, Social Systems, and Network Analyses. (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006).
  • “Censorship Regimes and Content Parameters in the U.S.,” Douglas Gomery and Luke Hockley, Eds., Television Industries. (British Film Institute, 2006).
  • “Interactive Food and Beverage Marketing: Targeting Adolescents in the Digital Age,” Kathryn Montgomery and Jeff Chester, (Special supplement to Journal of Adolescent Health, 2009).
  • “Balancing the Needs of Young People in the Digital Marketplace,” (Journal of Children and Media, 2011).
  • "The New Threat of Digital Advertising," Kathryn Montgomery and Jeff Chester, Sonya Grier, and Lori Dorfman, (Pediatric Clinics of North America, 2012).
  • “Protecting Children’s Privacy Online: The Battle Continues,” (Human Rights Magazine, March 2013). 


Professional Presentations

  • Keynote Speaker: “The Brave New World of Interactive Marketing.” Healthy Eating Research 3rd Annual Grantee Meeting, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. St. Paul Minnesota, October 15-17, 2008.
  • Paper: “Media Policies for Children and Youth in the Next Presidential Administration,” Annual Meeting of the National Communication Association. San Diego, California, November 22, 2008.
  • Paper: “Creating a Media Policy Agenda for the Digital Generation,” Telecommunications Policy Research Annual Conference. George Mason University Law School, September 26, 2008.
  • Keynote Speaker: NPLAN/BMSG Meeting on Digital Media and Marketing to Children, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Berkeley, California, July 21-22, 2008.
  • Paper: “Trends and Issues in Digital Marketing,” Invitational Scholarly Panel on “The Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Well-Being,” sponsored by the UK Government’s Department of Children, Schools and Families. London, England, July 8, 2008.
  • Panel Moderator: “Communications Scholars as Public Intellectuals: Challenges and Responsibilities,” International Communication Association Annual Conference. Montreal, Canada, May 24, 2008.
  • Keynote Speaker: “Promoting the Interests of Young People in the Global Media and Marketing Ecosystem,” Child as a Consumer Seminar, Ombudsman for Children in Finland. Helsinki, Finland, May 13, 2008.
  • Presenter: “Meeting in MySpace: Promise and Peril in the New Online Social Networks.” Students and Electronic Media: Teaching in the Technological Age.  Future of Children.  Princeton University. Princeton, New Jersey, May 2, 2008.
  • Paper: “Digital Communications at a Crossroads: Promoting Social Justice, Democratic Participation and Youth Civic Engagement in the Broadband Era,” Media Democracy Fund, Open Society Institute. New York, New York, December 3, 2007.
  • Invited Participant: “Youth Civic Engagement Scholars Project,” John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Initiative on Digital Media and Learning, University of Washington. Seattle, Washington, May 30-31, 2006.

Executive Experience

  • President and Co-Founder, Center for Media Education. Washington, D.C. 1991-2003.