The findings on the association between Social Networking Sites and civic engagement are mixed. The present study aims to evaluate a theoretical model linking the informational use of Internet-based social media (specifically, Facebook) with civic competencies and intentions for future civic engagement, taking into account the mediating role of civic discussions with family and friends and sharing the news online. Participants were 114 Italian high school students aged 14–17 years (57 % boys). Path analysis was used to evaluate the proposed theoretical model. Results showed that Facebook informational use was associated with higher levels of adolescent perceived competence for civic action, both directly and through the mediation of civic discussion with parents and friends (offline). Higher levels of civic competencies, then, were associated with a stronger intention to participate in the civic domain in the future. Our findings suggest that Facebook may provide adolescents with additional tools through which they can learn civic activities or develop the skills necessary to participate in the future.
This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.
The school did not allow us to collect information on socioeconomic status or ethnic background of participants. However, we obtained from the School Principal the data on percentage of immigrants in the school, that is 3.45 %. Thus, we can assume that our sample was very homogeneous in terms of ethnic composition.
According to several studies (e.g., Rosario et al. 2005), in models without latent variables, standard fit indices are not particularly useful because they are often not sensitive to errors in model equations that are expressed from the W matrix. To demonstrate this, in a previous work (Lenzi et al. 2012) we performed a simple Monte Carlo simulation based on parameters of our model. The results of the simulation are available in the Appendix of our previous study (Lenzi et al. 2012). The model fit indices for the final model are as follows: Satorra–Bentler Scaled χ2(2, n = 114) = .533, p = .776; TLI = 1; CFI = 1 RMSEA = .001). According to conventional guidelines (i.e., Schermelleh-Engel et al. 2003) these indices indicate a good model fit.
In addition, we re-estimated the models with the maximum likelihood estimator using a bootstrap approach (5000 bootstrap samples and percentile method to calculate bootstrapped confidence intervals). Overall, the results support those obtained with the MLE with robust standard errors.
The model has also been estimated using age and gender as control variables. The results confirm our previous findings; all estimated parameters of the final model (including indirect effect estimates) remained significant at the .05 level and in the same direction as the previous ones.
Bandura, A. (1977). Social learning theory. New York: General Learning Press.
Bollen, K. A. (1989). Structural equations with latent variables. New York: Wiley.
Brady, H. E., Verba, S., & Schlozman, K. L. (1995). Beyond SES: A resource model of political participation. The American Political Science Review, 89, 271–294.
Buffardi, L. E., & Campbell, W. K. (2008). Narcissism and social networking web sites. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 34, 1303–1314.
Campbell, D. E. (2006). Why we vote: How schools and communities shape our civic life. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Campbell, D. E. (2008). Voice in the classroom: How an open classroom climate fosters political engagement among adolescents. Political Behavior, 30, 437–454.
Chan, M., & Guo, J. (2013). The role of political efficacy on the relationship between Facebook use and participatory behaviors: A comparative study of young American and Chinese adults. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 16(6), 460–463.
Cheung, C., Lee, T., Chan, W., Liu, S., & Leung, K. (2004). Developing civic consciousness through social engagement among Hong Kong youths. Social Science Journal, 41(4), 651–660.
Delli Carpini, M. X. (2000). Gen.com: Youth, civic engagement, and the new information environment. Political Communication, 17, 341–349. doi:10.1080/10584600050178942.
Diez-Roux, A. V. (2007). Environnement résidentiel et santé: état de la question et perspectives pour le futur. Revue d’Epidémiologie et de Santé Publique, 55(1), 13–21.
Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The benefits of Facebook “friends:” Social capital and college students’ use of online social network sites. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 12, 1143–1168.
Etzioni, A., & Etzioni, O. (1999). Face to face and computer mediated communities, a comparative analysis. The Information Society, 15, 241–248.
Eurispes. (2011). Telefono Azzurro: il sexting tra le nuove insidie delle tecnologie della comunicazione. http://www.west-info.eu/files/eurispes
Facebook. (2012). http://newsroom.fb.com/content/default.aspx?NewsAreaId=22. Retrieved 30.09.13.
Flanagan, C. A., Syvertsen, A. K., & Stout, M. D. (2007). Civic measurement models: Tapping adolescents’ civic engagement (CIRCLE working paper 55). College Park, MD: Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement.
Gil de Zúñiga H., Jung, N., & Valenzuela, S. (2012). Social media use for news and individuals’ social capital, civic engagement and political participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 17, 319–336.
Granovetter, M. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78, 1360–1380.
Jennings, M. K., Stoker, L., & Bowers, J. (2009). Politics across generations: Family transmission re-examined. The Journal of Politics, 71(3), 782–799.
Jöreskog, K. G., & Sörbom, D. (1996). LISREL 8: User’s reference guide. Chicago: Scientific Software International.
Kenski, K., & Stroud, N. J. (2006). Connections between Internet use and political efficacy, knowledge, and participation. Journal of Broadcasting and Electronic Media, 50(2), 173–192.
Kim, J., & Kim, E. J. (2008). Theorizing dialogic deliberation: Everyday political talk as communica tive action and dialogue. Communication Theory, 18(1), 51–70. doi:10.1111/j.1468-2885.2007.00313.x
Kobayashi, T., Ikeda, K. I., & Miyata, K. (2006). Social capital online: Collective use of the Internet and reciprocity as lubricants of democracy. Information, Communication and Society, 9, 582–611.
Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays in moral development: The psychology of moral development (Vol. 2). New York: Harper and Row.
Kraut, R., Kiesler, S., Boneva, B., Cummings, J., Helgeson, V., & Crawford, A. (2002). Internet paradox revisited. Journal of Social Issues, 58(1), 49–74.
Kraut, R. E., Patterson, M., Lundmark, V., Kiesler, S., Mukopadhyay, T., & Scherlis, W. (1998). Internet paradox: A social technology that reduces social involvement and psychological well-being? American Psychologist, 53, 1017–1031.
Kwak, N., Shah, D. V., & Holbert, R. L. (2004). Connecting, trusting, and participating: The direct and interactive effects of social associations. Political Research Quarterly, 57, 643–652.
Lenzi, M., Vieno, A., Pastore, M., & Santinello, M. (2013). Neighborhood social connectedness and adolescent civic engagement: An integrative model. Journal of Environmental Psychology, 34, 45–54.
Lenzi, M., Vieno, A., Perkins, D. D., Pastore, M., Santinello, M., & Mazzardis, S. (2012). Perceived neighborhood social resources as determinants of prosocial behavior in early adolescence. American Journal of Community Psychology, 50, 37–49.
Livingstone, S., & Markham, T. (2008). The contribution of media consumption to civic participation. The British Journal of Sociology, 59(2), 351–371.
Matthews, T. L., Hempel, L. M., & Howell, F. M. (2010). Gender and the transmission of civic engagement: Assessing the influences on youth civic activity. Sociological Inquiry, 80(3), 448–474.
McLeod, J. M. (2000). Media and civic socialization of youth. Journal of Adolescent Health, 27, 45–51. doi:10.1016/S1054-139X(00)00131-2.
Nie, N. H. (2001). Sociability, interpersonal relations, and the Internet: Reconciling conflicting findings. American Behavioral Scientist, 45, 420–435.
Nuutinen, T., Roos, E., Ray, C., Villberg, J., Välimaa, R., Rasmussen, M., et al. (2014). Computer use, sleep duration and health symptoms: A cross-sectional study of 15-year olds in three countries. International Journal of Public Health, 9, 619–628.
O’Neil, B. (2009). The media’s role in shaping Canadian civic and political engagement. The Canadian Political Science Review, 3(2), 105–127.
Park, N., Kee, K. F., & Valenzuela, S. (2009). Being immersed in social networking environment: Facebook groups, uses and gratifications, and social outcomes. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 12(6), 729–733.
Pempek, T. A., Yermolayeva, Y. A., & Calvert, S. L. (2009). College students’ social networking experiences on Facebook. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 30, 227–238.
Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York, NY: Touchstone Books/Simon and Schuster.
Raacke, J., & Bonds-Raacke, J. (2008). MySpace and Facebook: Applying the uses and gratifications theory to exploring friend-networking sites. CyberPsychology and Behavior, 11, 169–174.
R Development Core Team (2012). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna, Austria: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. http://www.R-project.org/.
Rojas, H. (2006). Orientations towards political conversation: Testing an asymmetrical reciprocal causation model of political engagement. Paper presented at the 56th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association, Dresden, Germany.
Romer, D., Jamieson, K. H., & Pasek, J. (2009). Building social capital in young people: The role of mass media and life outlook. Political Communication, 26, 65–83. doi:10.1080/10584600802622878.
Rosario, M., Hunten, J., Maguen, S., Gwadz, M., & Smith, R. (2005). The coming-out process and its adaptational and health-related associations among gay, lesbian, and bisexual youths: Stipulation and exploration of a model. American Journal of Community Psychology, 29, 133–160.
Rosseel, Y. (2012). Lavaan: An R package for structural equation modeling. Journal of Statistical Software, 48, 1–36.
Rosseel, Y., With Contributions from Many People. (2012). Lavaan: Latent variable analysis. R package version 0.4-12. http://CRAN.R-project.org/package=lavaan
Schermelleh-Engel, K., Moosbrugger, H., & Mulle, H. (2003). Evaluating the fit of structural equation models: Tests of significance and goodness-of-fit models. MPR-Online, 8, 23–74.
Scheufele, D. A. (2002). Examining differential gains from mass media and their implications for participatory behavior. Communication Research, 29(1), 46–65. doi:10.1177/009365020202900103.
Schmitt-Beck, R., & Mackenrodt, C. (2010). Social networks and mass media as mobilizers and demobilizers: A study of turnout at a German local election. Electoral Studies, 29(3), 392–404.
Shah, D. V., Kwak, N., & Holbert, R. L. (2001). “Connecting” and “disconnecting” with civic life: Patterns of Internet use and the production of social capital. Political Communication, 18, 141–162.
Torney-Purta, J., Amadeo, J., & Richardson, W. K. (2007). Civic service among youth in Chile, Denmark, England, and the United States: A psychological perspective. In M. Sherraden & A. McBride (Eds.), Civic service worldwide: Impacts and inquiries. Armonk, NY: M. E. Sharpe.
Valenzuela, S., Park, N., & Kee, K. F. (2009). Is there social capital in a social network site? Facebook use and college students’ life satisfaction, trust, and participation. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 14, 875–901.
Vitak, J., Zube, P., Smock, A., Carr, C. T., Ellison, N., & Lampe, C. (2010). It’s complicated: Facebook users’ political participation in the 2008 election. Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking, 14(3), 107–114.
Watts, R., Williams, N., & Jagers, R. (2003). Sociopolitical development. American Journal of Community Psychology, 31, 185–194.
Williams, D. (2006). On and off the’net: Scales for social capital in an online era. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 11, 593–628.
Youniss, J., McLellan, J. A., Su, Y., & Yates, M. (1999). The role of community service in identity development: Normative, unconventional, and deviant orientations. Journal of Adolescent Research, 14, 248–261. doi:10.1177/0743558499142006.
Youniss, J., McLellan, J. A., & Yates, M. (1997). What we know about engendering civic identity. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(5), 620–631.
Zaff, J. F., Hart, D., Flanagan, C. A., Youniss, J., & Levine, P. (2010). Developing civic engagement within a civic context. In M. E. Lamb & A. M. Freund (Eds.), Social and emotional development. The handbook of life-span development (Vol. 2, pp. 590–630). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. (Editor-in-chief: Richard M. Lerner).
The authors are very thankful to Valentina Lorenzi for her valuable contribution in the development of the study.
Rights and permissions
About this article
Cite this article
Lenzi, M., Vieno, A., Altoè, G. et al. Can Facebook Informational Use Foster Adolescent Civic Engagement?. Am J Community Psychol 55, 444–454 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-015-9723-1
- Social media networks
- Civic engagement
- Path analysis
- Positive youth development