Social Networks, Civic Participation, and Young People: A Literature Review and Summary of the Educational Challenges

Social Networks, Civic Participation, and Young People: A Literature Review and Summary of the Educational Challenges

Sonia Lara, Concepción Naval
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-0116-1.ch010
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The latest report from the Pew Research Center (2010) shows that 93% of American teenagers and young adults use the Internet, and that 73% of them have their profile on a social network site. In the UK, data from Ofcom (2010) has come up with similar results. Citizen participation has traditionally been determined by demographic and socio-economic factors. Accordingly, the citizens who participate most actively are middle-aged and have a high socio-economic and educational level. By contrast, it is young people of low socio-economic status and educational level who participate the least. Some reports show modest signs that the use of the Internet could be another means to promote participation both online and offline. The main purpose of this chapter is to review the research literature concerning how social networks contribute to social participation.
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Civic Participation: A General Framework

Participation is a complex and widely debated concept (Livingstone & Markham, 2008), which also has multiple dimensions that are difficult to assimilate (Norris, 1999; Scheufele & Nisbet, 2002; Pattie, Seyd & Whitele, 2004). Indeed, we may distinguish as many aspects of participation as the realities to which it is applied, and moreover, taking into account the diversity of forms it assumes in function of the spatial-temporal coordinates in which it materializes (Haste, 2004). Furthermore, there is as yet no general agreement regarding the definition of participation, or how to measure it, which makes it an even more complicated issue to address.

Participation is defined in the Cambridge Dictionary as “when you take part or become involved in something”. Etymologically, we can discern its meaning in an active sense in the Latin verb participare, “to take part,” and in a causative sense, “to make (someone/something) take part,” which completes the action of giving with that of receiving in terms of participation. As such, another meaning for the term arises, that of “impart, announce, communicate” (Naval & Altarejos, 2000; Redondo, 1999).

Thus, the notion of commonality is implicit in all the definitions of participation as the result of participation is “having something in common”. Hence, if what we call community arises from the union of individuals who have something in common, participation turns out to be an inseparable dimension of community.

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