One of our biggest battles in reporting on youth progressive politics is pushing back against the faulty view that the use of technology/social networking among youth keeps them from practicing successful activism. Thankfully, we have yet another package of data noting the opposite — those youth who participate in online social networking opportunities tend to be more engaged and involved in their communities offline.

From the National Conference on Citizenship’s 2009 Civic Health Index report:

This year’s survey allowed us to explore the relationships between online forms of engagement and community-based civic activities. We selected a group of Millennials who use social networking sites to promote civic causes, express their opinions on issues, and gather information related to civics, and compared their levels of engagement to that of their peers. We found that Millennials who use social networking sites for civic purposes are far more likely to actively engage in their own communities in each of the activities we measured.

Although we cannot conclude that belonging to social networking sites promotes civic engagement in their community, it is encouraging that civic use of social networking sites cut across income and educational gaps, meaning that low-income youth and youth without college experience were nearly as likely to use social networking sites for civic purposes as youth who had higher income or college experience. As we found in 2008, the civic engagement gap appears to be smaller among young people who engage online, and this year, we found that young Americans who are highly engaged online come from diverse economic and educational background, and are also highly engaged off-line.

Emphasis is mine.

It’s understandably very tempting for elder generations to dismiss peer-to-peer internet-based activism. Even though Boomer and Xer parents continue to join Facebook, they do so for novelty’s sake. The link between technology and youth activism can’t be seen every day, and so, for many, it doesn’t exist.

This report is one more reminder that the connection is there — youth who use social networking sites online are doing more than changing their avatars. They do get involved/engaged in their local communities and make a difference.

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