Emergent communication technologies, such as smart phones, twitter, email, and the Internet in general, which I'm not sure would any longer be considered emergent, offer American youth more engagement in government and politics than ever before. Youth can communicate freely with one another and with politicians and government officials, which is an appealing form of engagement for this generation. Opinions can be expressed to peers and politicians, ideas can be exchanged, comments made, for instance, in response to newspaper articles, and anyone can have a blog today. The Internet allows for fact-checking and provides for great transparency than ever before. All of these are ways in which American youth can participate in the process.
On the other hand, all of these technologies distance youth (and all of us, really) from the real people who make up our government, and they also have a way of reducing everything to sound bites, which can never really capture the complexity of today's governance. I had read so much about President Obama when he ran the first time, but campaigns are all about those sound bites, and it was not until I met him, shook his hand, and talked to him for a few minutes that I felt I really had any sense of him as a person. Government in action consists of far more than tweets and blogs, and its complexity cannot be thus reduced. It may be unfashionable these days, but nothing replaces going to watch the House or Senate in action or attending a political meeting at a real time and place. There are plenty of opportunities for involvement of this sort, and I don't see enough of this going on with today's youth.