The PEW Research Group has recently released their 2nd of 3 reports on “Teens, Technology & Friendships”. PEW, which describes themselves as “a nonpartisan fact tank that informs the public about the issues, attitudes and trends shaping America and the world”, has conducted extensive research to academically confirm something we all probably know: Teenagers are using technology to maintain social relationships.
If you’re mind has just been blown, please take sometime to compose yourself and in the near future you might want to reconnect with society (Google has self-driving cars now, don’t be scared). The report itself is actually pretty insightful and explores how teenagers use video games in their social life more thoroughly than any study I have seen previously. It’s obviously isn’t going to be ground breaking conclusions, but a big part of sociology is academically documenting and observing trends in society.
There’s a lot of information we could go over, most of which dealing with how teens are using social media sites and apps like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to create and maintain social ties, but for the sake of only going over what most pertinently concerns this blog we’ll only be delving into the report as it concerns video games. LET’S JUMP IN:
“52% of all teens spend time with friends playing video games; 13% play with friends daily.”
In line with what the ESA reported on video game usage for 2015, this statistic doesn’t surprise me. Gamers in general are becoming more and more social, so it’s only natural that you’d see teenagers take advantage of this as well. Games like World of Warcraft and Halo are cited as specific games that have been used as tools for socialization within teen social groups.
“Overall, 72% of teens ages 13 to 17 play video games on a computer, game console or portable device. Fully 84% of boys play video games, significantly higher than the 59% of girls who play games. Playing video games is not necessarily a solitary activity; teens frequently play video games with others. Teen gamers play games with others in person (83%) and online (75%), and they play games with friends they know in person (89%) and friends they know only online (54%). They also play online with others who are not friends (52%).
This is a little confusing to read because of all the numbers. The way to read these numbers is the percentage of respondents that fell into that group. Don’t try and add them up, as individuals may fall into multiple categories (for example, a teen may respond that he plays online regularly with friends he met online AND plays with people who are not friends).
What’s interesting here is to examine just how much video games have pervaded our culture. On whole 42%* of Americans play video games regularly, so for 72% of teenagers to play video games regularly one can hypothesize that the number of Americans who play games regularly will probably continue to go up year to year. Likewise, just the sheer number of teens playing online is remarkable. 10 years ago that amount probably would have been halved. It’s not all that surprising, what with all major consoles being online and the majority of AAA games having some sort of online mode, but it’s dazzling to see for someone who grew up in an era in which video games were mostly a solitary activity.
-38% of all teen boys share their gaming handle as one of the first three pieces of information exchanged when they meet someone they would like to be friends with; just 7% of girls share a gaming handle when meeting new friends.
-Of teens who have met a friend online, 57% of boys have made a friend playing video games. That amounts to 34% of all teenage boys ages 13 to 17.
These two are particularly interesting, just because these aren’t the type of statistics most studies will look into. It makes sense that a good portion of teens making friends online would do so in a video games, as it’s a common ground for people to meet and share something they’re both interested in. If anything, I’m more interested what the relationships of people meeting in others online grounds would be; forums potentially have the same effect, but social media sites are more of an oddity in my mind. Regardless, it shows that technology is being used in various ways to strengthen and even create relationships.
When playing games with others online, many teen gamers (especially boys) connect with their fellow players via voice connections in order to engage in collaboration, conversation and trash-talking. Among boys who play games with others online, fully 71% use voice connections to engage with other players (this compares with just 28% of girls who play in networked environments).
This one is the statistic I found to be the most interesting, as one might be able surmise a bigger problem at work. With 59% of girls playing video games, it’s surprising that only 28% responded that they play with voice communications. In a interview by Kotaku, a lead author of the report concluded that this means only about 9% of girls playing video games are using voice communication in online games. Why the low number? The study unfortunately does not go into why this may be, but if I had to guess I would say they may be a mix of practical and troubling reasons for the community. I don’t want to make assumptions, but it wouldn’t surprise me if one of the reasons found were because teens girls had negative experiences when playing online with others. I’ll leave it there.
This chart is exemplifies this gender difference between how male and females are using video game communities. For boys, video games are being used as social outlets in the same way text messaging and social media is being used, which is something one might not automatically assume.
There’s much more in depth analysis in the report itself, which can be found here in its entirety. The grand take way to the entire report is that technology isn’t causing the social relationships of teens to diminish. Yes, teens aren’t connecting the same way they did 20 years ago, but they’re still connecting and the social bonds they create aren’t any less real or solid. Technology, in many ways, is augmenting the ways we connect with others and even allowing us to reach groups and people that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to connect with. So, the next time you see a teen on their phone don’t scoff or dream of the “good ol’ days”, just realize that society advances and restructures how we socialize.
*Data from ESA 2015 Report