As has been commented on here recently young people do use social media but not in the manner those trying to engage with them necessarily think. Steven Clift kindly pointed his network to an American study of young people there and their social media usage. The report ‘Participatory politics – New Media and Youth Political Action‘ (PDF, 1.45Mb, 56 pages) authored by Cathy J. Cohen (University of Chicago), Joseph Kahne, Benjamin Bowyer, Ellen Middaugh (Mills College) and Jon Rogowski (University of Chicago) presents some interesting conclusions.
The paper appears to envisage participatory politics as a parallel track to conventional or representative politics, where one voices one opinions which, may or not reach the ears of politicians, but are heard by friends and family. It bases the need for it upon the existing use in recent campaigns, along with the finding that unlike voting participatory activities are more equitably distributed – something that might cynically be assigned to the old adage, sometimes attributed to Emma Goldman, that if voting could change anything they’d make it illegal. Importantly the paper does acknowledge on page 37 that “one should not assume that the new digital media or the alternative paradigm of participatory politics will organically expand youth political engagement”, but quotes Henry Milner on page 38 that “generations that turn their backs on politics in favor of individual expression will continue to find their priorities at the top of society’s wish list – and at the bottom of the ‘to-do’ list.”
Further it states on page 38, as was stated in an earlier post - Digital entitlement - “youth must learn how to judge the credibility of online information and how to find divergent views on varied issues” and interventions may be required to assist young people in learning these skills – what a better scheme to pep up ICT classes, or many others, in schools and colleges?