Digital Civic Engagement


Over the past decade and more, there has been a significant emphasis in western societies on policy processes to engage youth in civic and political life. Concerns about the extent to which marginalized urban young people have become disengaged from civic and political life has been a common, and contested, theme in youth policy. Currently, there is a dearth of literature exploring how policy provisions have been translated into practice on the ground.

Civic engagement is increasingly recognized as an important component of youth development because it can help build human and social capital. The practice of civic engagement has an important impact in educating young people about their rights and responsibilities as citizens and allowing them to develop skill sets that are valuable to them as they undergo the transition to adulthood. Civic engagement is also perceived as a driving force for community and national development as it enables youth to unleash their potential and contribute to the development of their societies.

Digital civic engagement by youth can include digital instances of more conventional hallmarks of civic engagement, such as reading and circulating news, writing emails to an elected representative or community organization (or interacting through social media), or belonging to a campus or community group online. Exposure to civic issues and civic education at an early age helps create future engaged civic actors, while socio-political empowerment is associated with young people’s self-esteem and well-being.

Yet, with digital media creation and editing tools that are easy to access and use, many youths also engage with digital spaces to develop their civic identities and express their political stance in creative ways, including through videos, memes, and artwork to claim agency that may not be afforded to them in traditional civic spaces. This dynamic is reimagining the concept of ‘the political’ writ large.

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