ARTICLE: Youth’s digital literacy and civic engagement go together – but only for those who pay attention to news

How do different digital literacy skills and news readership interact in the context of civic engagement? Soo Jung Moon, of Unversity of West Georgia, and Sang Y. Bai, of National Youth Policy Institute, tackled this complex question through a large-scale survey (N = 2 584) of South Korean youths.

Moon and Bai asked the respondents about four components of digital literacy: their technical skills, information usage, communication with other users, and creating their own content. They were also asked about three kinds of civic engagement: how often they posted about social issues, did volunteer work, or donated money. Lastly, the authors categorized the respondents into three groups according to how much news they consumed on social media.

First, Moon and Bai noticed that technical skills had no statistically significant effects on civic engagement. The other three areas of digital literacy did correlate with all three types of engagement. However, the strength and the level of statistical significance varied. For examples, digital communication skills predicted volunteering only with a p-value of < 0.1, and only 8 per cent of the variance in the respondents' volunteering behavior was explained by the model.

Paying attention to news on social media had a statistically significant effect. Digital literacy skills and civic engagement correlate significantly only in those respondents who pay a lot of attention to news. The effect is weaker in the “medium news attention” group, and almost negligible in the “low attention” group. Whether digital literacy skills result from reading news or vice versa is yet to be resolved, Moon and Bai emphasize.

The article “Components of digital literacy as predictors of youth civic engagement and the role of social media news attention” was published by the Journal of Children and Media. It is available online on the publisher’s website (abstract free).

Picture: Untitled by Marco Wolff.

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