Children and Video Games

— The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation
Updated on Nov 12, 2009

Introduced in 1972, video games are played on several types of platforms: home consoles used with TV sets,computers, computers with access to the Internet,coin-operated arcade machines, and handheld devices including game systems, cell phones and Palm Pilots. Computer and video game sales in the United States are a $6.35 billion industry, with estimates of $16.9 billion by 2003.1

Prevalence of Video Games

  • According to a national survey conducted by the National Institute on Media and the Family (NIMF),92% of children and adolescents ages 2-17 play video games.2
  • More than two-thirds of all children ages 2-18 live in a home with a video game system.3
  • A third of all children 2-18 have video game players in their bedrooms.4 By comparison, half have a TV, 29% have a VCR and 16% have a computer in their room.5

Amount of Time Spent Playing Video Games

  • The major studies indicate that children ages 2-18 spend, on average, between 20-33 minutes a day playing video games.6
  • The amount of time spent playing video games varies by age. On average, 2-7 year-olds spend 8 minutes a day, 8-13 year-olds spend 32 minutes a day, and 14-18 year-olds spend 20 minutes a day playing video games.7
  • On any given day, 30% of all kids 2-18 will play a video game; those who do play spend an average of just over an hour (1:04) playing.8
  • Boys spend substantially more time playing video games than do girls, regardless of age.9 On any given day, 44% of boys report playing video games compared to 17% of girls.10 “Tween” boys spend the most time playing video games. Between ages 8-13, boys’ game playing peaks at 47 minutes a day, on average. More than half (59%) of this age group report playing video games the previous day, and more than one-fifth (21%) play games more than an hour a day (compared to about 8% of all children ages 2 to 18).11
  • Video game playing, even more than television watching, is an activity that kids tend to do alone: among 7th through 12th-graders, more than half(55%) play video games by themselves, about onethird(36%) play with siblings or peers, and only 2% play with their parents.12
  • Ethnicity and income level are indicators of video game playing, particularly among older kids ages 8-18: African American and Hispanic youth play more video games than White youth, and kids from low and middle income communities spend more time playing video games than kids from high income areas.13

Video Game Preferences

  • Among 2-18 year olds, the three genres that dominate kids’ video game playing are action or combat (42%), sports (41%), and adventure (36%).14
  • Among kids ages 8-18, boys are much more likely than girls to play action (51% v 31%) and simulation (12% v. 3%) video games.15
  • Some research has indicated that girls who like games with violent themes prefer fantasy or cartoon violence, whereas boys prefer realistic, human violence. General entertainment games in which the main action does not focus on fighting or destruction become more popular as children get older, especially among girls.16
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