Through the eyes of young people: what is the meaning, value and impact of citizenship and youth participation?
Literature produced in the last 15 years stresses changes in citizens' involvement in civic and political participation arising from digital and social technologies. When it comes to young people, literature also hints those concepts such as citizenship and participation, as well as the ways of experiencing them, are different in the eyes of young and older generations. Based on the results of a research that approached school as a privileged space to discuss citizenship themes through media creation and production, this article focuses the meanings adolescents attribute to citizenship and participation, as well as their roles as active citizens with a voice. Three specific questions are analysed: What do participation and citizenship mean to young people? What do they understand by 'citizen'? How do they think citizens can express their voices? Action research with secondary school students, aged 15 to 18, attending two Portuguese schools was conducted. This paper explores the results of the exploratory questionnaire (N=197) presented in the diagnosis phase and the group discussions conducted in the reflection & evaluation stage. The results of the univariate statistical analysis of the questionnaire and content analysis of the group discussions indicate that even though young people share concrete ideas about what citizenship means to them. Dataset also points to a a lack of involvement in civic/ political movements and associations and a widespread disbelief regarding the impact of their citizen voice, especially when expressed through traditional forms of participation. Moreover, there seems to be a significant - and tendentially negative - impact of adults with prominent roles in their lives on adolescents' opinions and perspectives. The conclusions stress the importance of further exploring concepts of citizenship and participation from a family context point of view and of adopting youth-centric perspectives when reflecting on issues related to youth citizenship and participation.