Digital Media Literacy Education and Online Civic and Political Participation



There is a stark contrast between youths’ participation with new media and their civic and political participation. Judged by traditional standards, levels of youth civic and political commitment, capacity, and activity are the lowest of all demographic groups and until recently have been declining (Macedo et al., 2005). At the same time, youth are highly engaged with digital media, such as social media, blogging, video games, and smart phones (see, e.g., Lenhart. et al., 2010; Kahne, Middaugh, and Evans, 2008). Youth, in fact, are frequently the generation that is closest to innovation (Krueger, 2002; Mossberger, Tolbert, & McNeal, 2008). Engagement with new media has the potential to help strengthen young people’s participation in civic and political life. Educators, policymakers, foundations, and others are considering ways to develop desirable bridges between these two domains (for examples, see the National
Broadband Plan, the Center for Media Literacy, and the National Association for Media Literacy Education). The present study represents one of the first
efforts to assess quantitatively how frequently digital media literacy education occurs in U.S. high schools and whether it can increase the likelihood that youth will engage with digital media in ways that promote the quantity, quality, and equality of online civic and political participation. 

Joseph Kahne - Mills College
Jessica Timpany Feezell - University of California, Santa Barbara
Nam-Jin Lee - College of Charleston

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

Publication Date: 
February 23, 2011