In an increasingly networked public, the Internet and social media provide rich opportunities for reconnecting youth with their civic life. In a questionnaire study of 578 14-20 year old youth, we explore the relationship between Internet technology experiences, civic efficacy, community identification, and civic engagement in their everyday lives.
Contrary to prevailing stereotypes of digital youth, we found that most rely on email and text messaging to communicate with others in their local communities about civic issues. Further, those more experienced with technologies in the public sphere (such as blogs, wikis, and Twitter) had higher levels of civic engagement. Teens who strongly identified with their local community and who had higher levels of civic efficacy were especially likely to be civically engaged. These results highlight the importance of encouraging youth to emotionally connect to their local communities, and to do so online in the public sphere rather than through more personal communication channels.