The Pew Internet & American Life Project has just released the results of the first-ever national, publicly available look at youth and video games.
Teens, Video Games & Civics examines how and why games are played and details the relationship that gaming has to social and civic engagement among teens in the United States.
In gathering their data, Pew conducted phone interviews with 12-17-year olds along with a parent. The results of the 75-page report are a fascinating glimpse into how video games fit into the lives of teens. Major conclusions include:
- Almost all teens play games.
- The most popular games played by teens today span a variety of genres and ratings.
- Gaming is often a social experience for teens.
- Close to half of teens who play online games do so with people they know in their offline lives.
- Teens encounter both pro-social and anti-social behavior while gaming.
- The most popular game genres include games with violent and nonviolent content.
- Parental monitoring of game play varies.
- There are civic dimensions to video game play.
- The quantity of game play is not strongly related to teens’ interest or engagement in civic and political activity.
- The characteristics of game play and the contexts in which teens play games are strongly related to teens’ interest and engagement in civic and political activities.
- Playing games with others in person was related to civic and political outcomes, but playing with others online was not.
- Civic gaming experiences are more equally distributed than many other civic learning opportunities.
Pew notes that:
Video gaming is pervasive in the lives of American teens… Opportunities for gaming are everywhere… When asked, half of all teens reported playing a video game “yesterday.”
While racing, puzzle and sports games were determined to be the most popular, Pew found that two-thirds of American teens enjoyed action and adventure games, which may contain violent elements. A listing of teens’ Top 10 most popular games was headed by Guitar Hero, Halo 3 and Madden. Grand Theft Auto was 8th.
Pew also concluded that gaming is a social experience for teens and that parental monitoring varies. Surprisingly, only a small (13%) subset of parents said they believed that games had a harmful effect on their kids:
- 90% of parents say they always or sometimes know what games their children play.
- 72% say they always or sometimes check the ratings before their children are allowed to play a game.
- Parents of teens who play games are generally neutral on the effect of games on their children, with nearly two-thirds believing that games have no impact one way or the other on their offspring.
- 62% of parents of gamers say video games have no effect on their child one way or the other.
- 19% of parents of gamers say video games have a positive influence on their child.
- 13% of parents of gamers say video games have a negative influence on their child.
- 5% of parents of gamers say gaming has some negative influence/some positive influence, but it depends on the game.
Civic engagement was one of the main focal points of the study. Games, however, seemed to have a mostly neutral effect in this area, with much depending on the civic-mindedness of individual gamers:
Neither the frequency of game play nor the amount of time young people spend playing games is significantly related to most of the civic and political outcomes that we examined—following politics, persuading others how to vote, contributing to charities, volunteering, or staying informed about politics and current events. There is little evidence to support the concern that playing video games promotes behaviors or attitudes that undermine civic commitments and behaviors.
At the same time, there is little evidence to support the idea that playing video games, in general, is associated with a vibrant civic or political life. The frequency of gaming was related to only two civic and political outcomes—political interest and protesting—with differences only emerging between the highest and lowest frequency of game play.
If you enjoy commenting on GamePolitics, the odds are that you are more aware of political and civic issues:
Teens who take part in social interaction related to the game, such as commenting on websites or contributing to discussion boards, are more engaged civically and politically.
GP: All in all, this is very positive news for gaming. Pew Internet gets it right when it comes to the pervasiveness and social elements of gaming. Moreover, parental responses show that games are perhaps not regarded as the "murder simulators" some critics would suggest.
Get the full text of Teens, Video Games & Civics here…