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Taylor & Francis


Scholars of political socialization are paying increasing attention to how the Internet might help cure the civic disengagement of youth. This content analysis of a sample of 73 U.S.-based civic Web sites for youth introduces a framework for evaluating Web sites’ strategies for fostering active communication for citizenship. We offer the first systematic assessment of the extent to which a broad range of Web sites aim to develop young people’s abilities to use information and communication technology (ICT) as a vehicle for civic participation and to engage with ICT as a policy domain that encompasses issues (such as freedom of speech and intellectual property rights) that shape the conditions for popular sovereignty online. The study finds low levels of interactive features (such as message boards) that allow young people to share editorial control by offering their own content. In addition, few sites employ active pedagogical techniques (such as simulations) that research suggests are most effective at developing civic knowledge, skills, and participation. We also find little attention to ICT policy issues, which could engage budding citizens in debates over the formative conditions for political communication in the information age. We conclude with suggestions for civic Web site designers and hypotheses for user studies to test.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Political Communication in July of 2008, available online:

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