SAN FRANCISCO, CA – This week’s announcement from the Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that more than 60 percent of parents of gamers say video games have no effect on their children—either positive or negative. But research indicates that video games do have an impact on kids.
The latest Pew study, Teens, Games and Civics, revealed that teens who played games with more civic learning opportunities—such as simulations of civic or political activities, helping others, and debating ethical issues—are more likely to go online to get information about politics or current events, give or raise money for charity, stay informed about political issues or current events, and volunteer.
However, there were M- and AO-rated games included in the study that contain violent content, like the Halo series. In fact, 32% of gaming teens report that at least one of their three favorite games is rated Mature or Adults Only. Past studies have shown that violent video games decrease empathy and increase aggressive behavior.
"This study is a great first step in highlighting the civic learning potential of games," says Jim Steyer, CEO and founder of Common Sense Media. "It recognizes that kids are collaborating and learning with these tools, but parents need to balance that with potential negatives. I know that, as a parent, I’d rather my kids collaborate on building a society, like in The Sims, than help each other destroy and kill in a first-person shooter game like Halo. It’s up to each parent to recognize that media does have an effect and then decide what’s best for their kids."
Parents can get involved by learning more about game content and playing games with their kids. Many games encourage creativity, collaboration, and learning without any exposure to violence, sexually explicit content, and commercialism. Here’s our recommended list of age-appropriate games that encourage civic engagement:
Some facts about video games and kids from the study:
- 97% of teens ages 12 to 17 play computer, Web, or console games.
- Only 31% of parents say they always or sometimes play games with their kids.
- 12- to 14-year-olds are equally likely to play M- or AO-rated games as their 15- to 17-year-old counterparts.
Common Sense Media is the nation's leading nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the impact of media and entertainment on kids and families. Common Sense Media provides trustworthy ratings and reviews of media and entertainment based on child development criteria created by leading national experts. For more information, visit www.commonsensemedia.org.