Gaming: Teenagers and Socializing in the 21st Century

by Tanya Thomas on Sep 18 2008 11:36 AM

If computer games paint the picture of a geeky loner in your mind, then here’s some research that’s all set to prove you wrong. A new report suggests that video games actually make children more interactive and more involved in friends and community circles.

The Pew Internet study of US teenagers revealed that only a small number of adolescents play alone, while most of them actually join their friends while gaming.

The survey of 1,102 teenagers aged 12-17 revealed that many teenagers even used educational games to learn about world issues and also became more involved in politics.

According to the report, gaming had become an almost universal pastime among young Americans, revealing that 99pct of boys and 94pct of girls across the socio-economic spectrum play some kind of computer or video game.

The most popular title was Guitar Hero, and was followed by Halo 3, Madden NFL, Solitaire, and Dance Dance Revolution.

Amanda Lenhart, senior research specialist at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, who wrote the report, said that a majority of teenagers played a variety of different titles.

"They range in terms of their content from things that are about solving problems to things that are about going out and shooting things, or driving things, or racing things, or playing a sport," BBC quoted Lenhart, as saying.

However, she claimed that playing video games does not necessarily mean that a teen would become a loner.

"Three quarters of teens actually play these games with other people, whether online or in person," she said.

She also claimed that even if teens play games every day, it won't impact their social lives.

"People who game on a daily basis are just as likely to talk on the phone, to email, to spend time with a friend face to face outside of school as kids who play games less," she said.

On the flipside, those teenagers who were forced to confront problems in virtual communities, had a tendency to raise money for charity, volunteer, stay informed about political issues, persuade others to vote or march in a protest or demonstration.

A large number of youngsters are playing games with a serious message.

Lenhart said the report revealed that the amount of time spent playing computer games didn't dent the amount of community engagement the teenagers took part in.

But, in her opinion, teenagers who played with other people in person were likely to be more engaged with their communities.

She also pointed out that previous research has suggested that similar exercises can directly influence social interaction and community engagement.

According to the results, Lenhart advised parents to monitor the games their kids were playing.

"What we say to parents is pay attention to the games that your child is playing, see what they do in the games, and look for games that offer your child opportunities to have more civically-minded experiences," she said.