Edited by Stephen Coleman and Deen Freelon
Chapter 12: Youth civic engagement
For as long as there has been a study of digital politics, young citizens have occupied a special place in it. Why? Two major reasons stand out. First, young people early on were recognized as ‘digital natives’, a term meant to capture something special about the relationship between youth and digital media (Prensky, 2001): a kind of electronic sixth sense to explain aptitudes for videocassette recorder (VCR) programming in the 1980s, website surfing in the 1990s, and social media development and use in the twenty-first century. For scholars of political engagement, one resulting assumption was that previously disengaged youth might be reached with a preferred medium and so brought back to civic life (for example, Delli Carpini, 2000). Originating as it did with perceptions of older people less well inclined to use technology, the concept of digital native has limitations in describing the practices and abilities of a large and very diverse group, as we shall shortly see. Yet the fact that the generation entering adulthood today is the first to have come of age completely immersed in digitally connected media is one worth paying attention to – although not simply because of their facility with technology.
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