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Given increasing calls for children and young people to participate via the Internet in civic and political activities), this article examines how far, and with what success, such participation is occurring among UK teenagers. Findings from a national survey conducted by the UK Children Go Online project show that young people are using the Internet for a wide range of activities that could be considered ‘participation', including communicating, peer-to-peer connection, seeking information, interactivity, webpage/content creation and visiting civic/political websites. The findings are closely examined using path analysis techniques to identify the direct and indirect relations among different factors that may explain how and why some young people participate more than others. The results suggest that interactive and creative uses of the Internet are encouraged by the very experience of using the Internet (gaining in interest, skills, confidence, etc.) but that visiting civic websites depends primarily on demographic factors (with older, middle-class girls being most likely to visit these sites). Finally, cluster analysis is used to identify three groups of young people – interactors, the civic-minded and the disengaged – each of which is distinctive in its social context and approach to the Internet.
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Keywords: Internet; civic; interactivity; participation; political; young people

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Media and Communications, London School of Economics and Political Science, S105, Houghton Street, London, WC2A 2AE, UK

Publication date: September 1, 2005

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