The Civic and Political Significance of Online Participatory Cultures among Youth Transitioning to Adulthood
Most existing scholarship that measures the impact of the Internet on civic or political engagement focuses on political uses of new media. Drawing on two large panel studies, we find that youth engagement in nonpolitical online participatory cultures may serve as a gateway to participation in important aspects of civic and political life, including volunteering, community problem-solving, protest activities, and political voice. These relationships remain statistically significant for both datasets, even with controls for prior levels of civic and political participation and a full range of demographic variables. While politically driven online participation is clearly worthy of attention, these findings indicate that it should not be seen as the only relevant bridge from online activity to civic and political engagement.