Part of the Volume on Civic Life Online: Learning How Digital Media Can Engage Youth.
This paper explores the promises and perils of the Internet as a vehicle for renewed youth engagement in public life, with particular focus on the political and economic forces that are shaping the future of digital media. It examines some of the earliest Web sites designed to foster youth civic and political engagement, and assesses the role of newer Web 2.0 participatory platforms, using the 2004 youth vote campaigns as a case study. The paper also documents the increasing involvement of commercial marketers in the social networking and participatory spaces of the web. It discusses five key policy issues, the outcomes of which will significantly impact the participatory potential of the new media. Finally, the paper offers recommendations for policy, research, and public education efforts that could help maximize the democratic capacities of digital technologies in the lives of young people.