Calling today’s US teens “digital natives” scarcely begins to express the degree to which digital technology permeates their daily routine.
Parents of today’s teens got acquainted with digital media when the internet was mostly text. Coming of age with Web 2.0, teens have experienced it as a gigantic TV-plus-radio channel. It also serves as a venue for playing video games, or even (to the astonishment of nongamers) for watching other people play. Collectively, digital media now feeds much of US teens’ appetite for entertainment, according to a new eMarketer report, “Digital Teens: Looking at How Technology Pervades Their Lives.”
It is possible to find teens who do not play video games, but they are a rarity. In an October 2014 study by Northeastern University, just 11% in the US said they were nonplayers.
Polling by YouGov for Scholastic in September 2014 found some variation between older and younger teens in frequency of gaming. Nearly six in 10 12- to 14-year-olds in the US said they “play games or apps on any kind of electronic device” at least five days a week vs. 45% of those ages 15 to 17.
Amid the proliferation of devices on which games can be played, consoles remain important. In an August 2014 study by Camp Mobile, 60% of 13- to 17-year-olds in the US reported owning one. And those devices do not lie idle, judging by Nielsen’s Q3 2014 finding that 12- to 17-year-olds were using game consoles about 20 hours per month on average.
A study conducted by The Futures Company in February 2014 took a more comprehensive look at time spent gaming on various devices. Consoles accounted for the largest share (3.9 hours for 12- to 15-year-olds, and 3.6 hours for 16- to 17-year-olds). However, computers (2.7 hours for those 12 to 15, and 1.8 hours for those 16 to 17) and mobile devices (1.8 hours for those 12 to 15, and 1.5 hours for those 16 to 17) added considerably to the total.
While occupying much of teens’ time, games garner a modest share of their spending. Piper Jaffray polling in September 2014 found US teens devoting an average of 7% of their expenditure to video games—one-third the size of the share going to clothing.