May 10, 2024 - Technology

Teen gaming's pros and cons

Split bar chart showing that 56% of U.S. teens who play video games say that playing video games has helped their problem-solving skills. 47% said it has helped their friendships and 41% said it has helped their ability to work with others. 17% said it has hurt their school performance and 41% said it has hurt the amount they sleep.
Data: Pew Research Center; Chart: Axios Visuals

Teenage gamers say video games help them build problem-solving skills, make friends and collaborate — but they also admit to problems like bad sleep habits and cyberbullying, a new Pew Research Center survey finds.

Why it matters: While moral panic over video games and violence are (mostly) behind us, it's still critical to understand how games are affecting young minds — both for good and for ill.

Driving the news: The vast majority of teens (85%) say they play games, while 40% call themselves a "gamer" (everybody's got games on their phones, but it's only an identity for hardcore players).

  • Teenage boys are more likely than girls to say they play video games (97% vs. 73%), and far more likely to call themselves a "gamer" (62% vs. 17%).
  • Around 40% of teens say they play games daily, with about 20% saying they play several times a week.
  • Most teens play games on consoles (73%) or smartphones (70%), though nearly a quarter are using virtual reality headsets.

Zoom in: 56% of teens say video games have boosted their problem-solving skills, 47% say they've helped them build friendships, 41% say they've made it easier to work with others, and 32% say they're good for their mental health.

Yes, but: 41% say games have led to sleep issues, while 17% say they've affected their grades.

Threat level: 43%, meanwhile, say they've been harassed by other gamers, with abuse ranging from offensive names to physical threats and unwanted sexually explicit messages.

  • Flashback: "Swatting" — faking an emergency to send cops to a victim's address — started in gaming circles before going mainstream.

The intrigue: Nearly 40% of teens told Pew they've cut back on their video game playing lately.

  • That's perhaps related to a broader trend of kids growing tired with tech and seeking IRL hobbies and connections instead.

Methodology: Pew's report is based on a survey of 1,453 U.S. teens conducted between Sept. 26 and Oct. 23, 2023.

The other side: Parents, pediatricians, psychologists and other experts are grappling with unhealthy internet use and other tech-related dependencies, as Axios' Jennifer Kingson has reported.

💬 Our thought bubble: What teens say and what's actually happening aren't always aligned.

  • But as an elder gamer myself who grew up preferring Quake and Counter-Strike to organized school sports, I can personally attest to the same benefits — and pitfalls — Pew found here. (LAN party, anyone?)

The bottom line: Video game use isn't inherently good or bad. But parents of younger teens especially should keep an eye on what they're being exposed to — and as with almost anything else in life, everything in moderation.

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