New Study on Teens, Video Games & Civics is Mostly Good News

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

Tweet about this on TwitterShare on FacebookShare on Google+Share on RedditEmail this to someone


  1. Breakfast at Tiffany's says:

    Wow teens play video games? No f**kin way! "The most popular game genres include games with violent and nonviolent content"? No shit Sherlock. Are you missing a good portion of your brain to have posted that, as informative? This Pew guy must have his head so far up his ass that he can no longer distinguish facts from the obvious. 

  2. TBoneTony ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    This is really great news.


    Not only is it a full comprehensive report but also goes onto what parents should know and what they really need to know about Videogames.


    Such as Videogames are no more than a reletively fun entertainment past time.


    Nothing about games making people into killers or making them into Brain Sergins or anything too far over the top.


    Shame that most of the news stations will simply say that this is not what is considered as news but we can all point to this and show the politicians what the REAL research has shown not thought Psychological lab research but though the Psychology of servaying a group of people from the population and talking about the answers and not trying to Generalize anything to conclusions.

    I’m going to read the full PTF file soon after my busy day is over, other than that, this is a really good day for a certain Australian Gamer.


  3. Jim Strathmeyer ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "Fully 97% of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games."

    Well, now we know how what proportion of children are raised so badly by their parents they have to lie about playing video games while with them.

  4. Ampa says:

    This was really great to read about. I’m glad you guys have articles like this that can shed some positive light on the gaming community and so non-gamers can see what the gaming scene REALLY looks like. I also look forward to that Katie Couric (sp?) news spot.

  5. Benjamin Snow says:

    (Check Newspaper and news reports)


    Nope!   Hell hasn’t froze over or Jesus hasn’t come to bring His followers home!



  6. Meggie says:

    72% say they always or sometimes check the ratings before their children are allowed to play a game.

    Hmm, that’s higher than I would have expected, pretty good news to me. I know a good deal of teens play games, but 97%? Wow. Hard to paint games as gateways to violence and obsession when practically every young person plays them.

  7. Joker ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Um, the right-wing doesn’t have a monopoly on morons…..  The left also has their share of bozo’s chanting the same mantra, albeit, for different reasons.  The bottom line is that the ‘ill-informed’ come from all corners. 

  8. Blu300 says:

    He has a point…as the right wing will no doubt point out, this report is flawed solely because it doesn’t support their sad little argument.

    So, if it doesn’t help them, then clearly it’s a cunning ploy by those maniacs at rockstar…


  9. Xlorep DarkHelm says:

    I’m sorry, but I wasn’t aware that Hillary was right-wing.

    "I’m not responcabel fer my comuter’s spleling errnors." — Xlorep DarkHelm

  10. Rum Monkey says:


    Here is a simple formula you will have to adhere to Jack:

    Proof or it didn’t happen.


    By proof I mean published peer reviewed journals with transparent methodology.  Transcripts from a TV show don’t count.  I’ll be waiting.  Probably for a long time.



  11. Anonymous says:

    What this proves is that the Me Generation parents are as clueless as their kids about the effect of these games.

    No parent wants to admit that he/she is negligent in allowing Timmy to play GTA IV four hours a day, so the parent says "No problem!"  Duh.

    This does not mean there is no effect.  What it means is that parents have no idea what the effect is and don’t care what the effect is.

    Sounds like a recipe for Columbine to me.  Jack Thompson

  12. Erik ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Actually what causes Columbine is when kids don’t get the mental therapy they need because of scum like you who try to point to a popular scapegoat, thus preventing them from getting said help.


    Now go wash your hands.  There is blood on them.

  13. sortableturnip says:

    I love the fact that JT makes these claims that GTA IV is bad for teens, but he’s never actually played the game before.  I bet his son has played it, though.

  14. E. Zachary Knight says:

    John Bruce, when will you learn?

    I will admit that there are parents out there that a clueless when it comes to video games, but they are not as prevelant as you think.

    This effect that games have on kids that you speak of, is that the mythical Harvard Brain scan study you keep telling us about? Speaking of which, when are you going to post a link to this study? You haven’t yet.

    These are parents who have observed their kids as they play these games and after they play the game. They have first hand knowledge of their kids’ behavior. Do you? I think not. So for you to claim that these parents don’t know their own kids, is kind of an ignorant statement to say.

    Also, may I ask if you feel it neglegent for a parent to let their kid play ‘Cops and Robbers’ for four hours a day? After all, half of the kids are role playing as a criminal. GTA is no different.

    E. Zachary Knight
    Oklahoma City Chapter of the ECA
    MySpace Page:
    Facebook Page:

    E. Zachary Knight
    Divine Knight Gaming
    Oklahoma Game Development
    Rusty Outlook
    Random Tower
    My Patreon

  15. Matthew says:

    Just curious, but how long does this meal take to cook? The statistics do not agree with your claims. Millions of copies of GTA have been sold across the US and Europe, and yet even you can only find, say, 10 crimes to pin on it. You can make all the claims you want, but if millions of people are being turned into mindless killers then where the hell is all the killing?

    Typically to make a claim of causation – GTA makes you violent – you need a correlation to base it on. This correlation does not exist. Your claims have about as much statistically viable ground as saying that smoking causes you to have blue eyes and eating bread turns you into a lesbian. Even the brain scan studies you keep mentioning (pro tip: cite them instead) don’t agree with you.

    Moreover, this report claims that most people play games. As such, the assumption is that most criminals will play games too.

    How can someone with a minimal grasp of cause and effect, statistical relationships, psychological analysis of media violence, the burden of proof, and the burden of responsibility become a lawyer campaigning against violent games? And you have the nerve to call us stupid?

  16. LujanD says:

    Yeah, because it totally wasn’t that the Columbine murderers displayed sociopathic tendencies, were picked on, had a history of delinquency and took a multitude of behavioral drugs, but rather the games that caused the Columbine massacre. That’s a COMPLETELY plausible theory!

  17. HarmlessBunny says:

    Jack, you have lost. Your lame airheaded theories are being picked to death or proven to be outright fabrications. I am, however, glad you are starting to chant that parents should be responsible. How about that… about time you admitted it, you senile twit. Enjoy forced retirement soon.

  18. spastkid says:

    Jack, Jack, Jack…  You do realise that your line of argument consists of "I believe that gaming is a negative activity and anyone who says otherwise is clueless or delusional" kinda makes you clueless AND delusional right? While it can be agreed upon that no single study is perfect and may not give a completely accurate picture of the situation, your stance that any studies which show gaming in a positive or at least neutral light is faulty doesn’t help your "side" so to speak.

    Please Jack, for your sanity’s sake, please accept that you need help and take measures to obtain said help.. Your obession with your perceived negativity of games has got to be cured. Its not healthy to take it to such extents… Seek help from your friends and family, I’m sure that your church group is also more than willing to help you through the process of healing your delusioned mind.


    Oooh! You mean there are people around with the mythical "Common Sense"?

  19. KayleL says:

    Me generation? The study just proved the gaming is a very social activity. Even though this doesn’t prove that there is no effects from violent video games, this proves the political issues about gaming.

    Also, if 97% of all teens play video games, wouldn’t it mean that almost every teen goes out killing people like in GTA? Funny, you say that those non-violent gamers are the exeption, yet it seems almost like the complete opposite.

    I don’t care if this is a fake Jack Thompson, I just have to release my anger.

  20. Baruch_S says:

    You keep telling yourself that, Jack. Just ignore any evidence that happens to contradict your own little world. Meanwhile, teens will continue to play game and not go on shooting sprees, and everyone will know that you’re wrong.

  21. kurisu7885 (can't log in) says:

    I can agree with you on one part. A parent who doesn’t see the signs their kid might snap, as well as some other factors could lead up to another school shooting.


    However, you are wrong that videos games would be the only factor.

    Bullying, abuse, stress of trying to compete, peer pressure, and numerous circumstances play a far greater role.

  22. Eville1NSI ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    "Sounds like a recipe for Columbine to me.  Jack Thompson"


    Which you’re just more than eager to stick into the oven and cook up aren’t you?

  23. DavCube (can't log in) ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    No, it’s means they’re smarter and more mature than you, and you’re a raging asshole.

  24. JustChris says:

    With those remarks, I think Jack inadvertently put the blame more on lousy parenting than the games that their kids play, as it should be.




  25. sheppy says:

    You know, I don’t like Jack Thompson either, but how come every post he makes gets piled on with replies, often the exact same fanatacism from the other direction?  I mean, we can argue that Columbine had no links to Doom and scientifically and contextually, it’s true.  Violent people are drawn to violent media and the Columbine Killers had a history of violence before Doom even shipped.

    HOWEVER, he has at least a legitimate point.  In many of these cases, the parents are oblivious.  Now, should the Comlumbine Killers actually have been proficient at their retarded little propane bombs, their body count would have been higher than the Oklahoma bombing.  But they were retarded little children with delusions of "Superbad Anarchist" skills.  On many occassions, the parents could have noticed the stockpiling of weapons, the creation of the pipebombs, the purchasing of ammo, the video diaries, the problems at school, and it COULD have been prevented.  Oblivious Parents + Neglected and Abandoned Angsty Teens = Recipe for Disaster.

    It’s hard to debate that fact.  But games are not the cause, merely the hobby.

  26. JustChris says:

    Sounds like a recipe for Columbine to me.

    Just like alchemy is a recipe for gold.

    You’re too obsessed with Murphy’s law. For those that don’t know what it is, here’s a Wiki excerpt:

    Murphy’s law is an adage in Western culture that broadly states, "if anything can go wrong, it will." It is also cited as: "If there’s more than one possible outcome of a job or task, and one of those outcomes will result in disaster or an undesirable consequence, then somebody will do it that way"; "Anything that can go wrong, will," the similar "Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong"; or, "Whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and at the worst possible time, in the worst possible way".

    But taken into consideration that Murphy’s Law will only be correct about 1 out of a million times, the benefits of suing companies for the actions of others are negligible. Creating rules based on Murphy’s Law reeks of zero tolerance policies to me.

    Anything can always go wrong in a human society. A scenario where a crime never happens should be used as a benchmark to rate a society, but not as a goal that society should follow.

  27. sortableturnip says:

    I see, so now you’re calling all parents "self-centered", "clueless",  "negligent", "stupid", and "uncaring".

    Get a clue, Thompson, this is a study, just like all those studies you claim show that violent games cause teens to become violent.

  28. Yuuri ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Being in good standing only means he’s paid his dues on time. Nothing more, nothing less. What Jack is guilty of is misrepresenting what being in good standing means.

  29. ThatTearsIt says:

    one slight problem with your statement, Jack – EVERYTHING YOU SAY IS A PATHETIC, WITLESS LIE.

    YOU LIED about Doom killing 15 students at Columbine. The constant news reports had details from some of the survivors themselves clearly stating that "everyone, even the teachers, just wouldn’t stop being mean to them and bullying them." BULLIES drove those gunners to kill, NOT A VIDEO GAME.


    YOU LIED about Halo ‘training’ the Baltaway Sniper. It was REPEATEDLY made quite clear that he was a fanatical ex-military sniper. His experience IN THE ARMY WITH REAL LIFE GUNS got to his head, not a video game WHICH DOES NOT IN ANY WAY TEACH YOU ABOUT THE WEIGHT, TEXTURE OR RECOIL OF FIREARMS.

    YOU LIED about video games killing the 32 students at Virginia Tech. THEY DIDN’T. You were caught red-handed raping the corpses there while falsely claiming to be saving lives and desperately using your ‘blame the games’ shit to try and hide your necrophilia! And you wonder why you were officially branded a Massacre Chaser.

    YOU LIED about CounterStrike killing 5 students at the NIU campus. You were just waiting for an excuse to promote your failure of a book, no matter how disgusting the opportunity.

    YOU LIED about Metal Gear Solid training a student to kill himself. Didn’t you even read the news? the stress caused by MASSIVE DEBTS drove him to kill himself, NOT a video game. Face it, you were just looking for some youngster’s death to mock and fantasize about again.

    YOU LIED about games featuring graphic sexual content. Bully DID NOT have gay sex. Killer 7 DID NOT have interactive rape scenes. You’re nop better than the gibbering retards at FOX who never even saw the front cover of the sci-fi game Mass Effect and falsely labelling that a ‘virtual orgasmic rape simulator.’

    YOU LIED about never harrassing anyone. Explain your childish harrassment of Janet Reno even now, you harrassment, of the Florida Bar you work for, your harrassment of Take Two, your constant harrassment of the grieving families whose losses YOU declared some kind of divine punishment, your daily harrassment of the people who post here, your harrassment anyone who exposes you as the child-abusing fraud you really are…

    YOU LIED about being a responsible family man. Youve made it repeatedly clear that you see your wife and son as nothing but tools to help carry out your sick and illegal agenda. How does your son feel knowing that you’re too stupid to keep count of his age, by the way?

    YOU LIED about wishing to ‘protect the children.’ Pedophiles to a better job at that than you.

    YOU LIED about being in good standing with the FLorida Bar. Explain why you were found GUILTY OF NEARLY 30 CHARGES OF SLANDER, FRAUD, DECEIT AND LYING TO THE COURT. And this time show ACTUAL PHYSICAL evidence, NOT your usual pre-school insults.

    you so-called moral crusaders aren’t welcome on this planet, let alone a blog which has banned you 60 times for the same demonic, infantile, threatening, moronic and just plain scummy behavior that’s getting you permanently disbarred this year.

  30. Leet Gamer Jargon says:

    Ha! I lol’d.


    Modified Sarge quote: "My favorite part is the part where you failed. Encore! Bravo."

  31. "..." says:

    Just on page 36, the report has quite a few errors. However, the response collection methodology and results reporting seems sound enough.

    Interesting how, among parents whose children don’t play video games, fully 55% of them say that playing video games is "a negative influence" for "children around the age of [their] child"…

  32. Adlantis says:

    "Positive News for Gaming" Indeed!

    I’m just reading the full report…

    "Fully 97% of teens ages 12-17 play computer, web, portable, or console games."

  33. Anonymous ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    a little suprised CoD4 wasnt on that Top 10 list…regardless.

    This proves that all the bitching and moaning politicians/activists/morons say about how video games are the spawn of satan himself are false…well, we already knew that but this study just gives the anti-video game crowd something to mull over (or criticize, whichever comes first)

  34. Arlen ( User Karma: 1 ) says:

    I’s actually like to hear more about this: "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."

    Do they go into any more detail on that?  It could make for a fascinating post.  Maybe I’ll just read the full report later.


  35. Anonymous says:

    "The most popular games played by teens today span a variety of genres and ratings."

    Hmmm, thats funny, I thought all teens wanted to play was M rated games.  /sarcasm.

  36. HarmlessBunny says:

    Like they do with all reports, that support that video games haven’t made millions of us who play them into homicidal psychopaths?

Comments are closed.