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Video games are good for kids (seriously)

A recent study shows that kids get all kinds of benefits from playing video games. I can only hope they find the same for adults.

Pew Internet & American Life Project has found nearly all American teens--97 percent--ages 12-17 play computer, Web, console, or mobile games. Teens are also playing these games with relative frequency and duration. Nearly one-third (31 percent) of teen gamers play games every day, and another one in five (21 percent) play games three to five days a week.

In a surprise twist, the study has found that video games are actually beneficial to teens. The full report (PDF) shows that gaming and community helps kids become more civic minded, encourages interest in charity and politics, and increases socialization.

As Kristin Kalning wrote on MSNBC:

Video games can provide hands-on learning opportunities for kids that can be much more meaningful than reading a textbook. For instance, you can play a mayor in SimCity, and get a close-up look at what it takes to build and maintain a community. Helping a newbie get his sea legs in a game simulates the real-world experience of volunteering. And playing games online can expose kids to people with worldviews that differ from their own--in positive and negative ways.

Some other interesting survey statistics:
- For many, it is more than game play--36 percent of gamers read game-related reviews, Web sites, and discussions
- 10 percent of all American teens visit virtual worlds
- The top three game franchises mentioned by teens: Guitar Hero, Halo 3, Madden NFL
- One in five (21 percent) teens who play video games play MMOGs
- Almost one-third (32 percent) of all the teens in the survey play at least one game rated M or AO

And lest we get hung up on video game violence, there are lots of things that kids can learn from gaming--there are games for cooking, surgery, musical instruments etc. And don't forget games like The Sims and Spore that introduce all kinds of new psychological aspects like existentialism. Nietszche would be proud.