Kids’ Participation in Online Interest-Based Communities Leads to Offline Civic Engagement


12.2.09 | Joe Kahne, professor of education at Mills College and director of the school’s Civic Engagement Research Group, has studied the connection between students’ participation with digital media and their level of civic engagement. He finds that kids who participate in community activities online are more likely to later get involved with civic actions offline, even if their online activities appear to be only social or for fun.

Kahne notes that young people who use digital media are picking up skills on how to find, assess and share information. New media provides opportunities for young people to be active participants—as opposed to old media, such as newspapers, which provide learning opportunities but no way to immediately share or add input.

More good news: Kahne also found that participation in online communities doesn’t isolate or distract young people from other forms of social life.

RELATED: Viewers may also be interested in this MacArthur Series volume, “Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth,” edited by W. Lance Bennett, a political science professor and founder of the Center for Communication and Civic Engagement at University of Washington. 

Harvard law professor and author John Palfrey (“Born Digital,” Basic Books, 2008) calls the volume “a great contribution” that left him “hopeful again about what we can do to engage young people in civic life.”


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