New study in Nordic and Baltic countries on teenagers' use of online games

  • Awareness
  • 21/10/2019
  • Latvian Safer Internet Centre

Online games play a significant role in young people's lives. In Latvia, almost half (44 per cent) of them admit playing online games at least once a week. Why are children and young people so enthusiastic about online games? How should parents handle this phenomenon? 

Some answers can found in a survey organised by telecommunications company Telia Company, as part of the Children's Advisory Panel (CAP) project, and in cooperation with different stakeholders in Scandinavia and the Baltic countries, including the Latvian Safer Internet Centre (SIC). The survey looks at young people's online gaming habits in Norway, Sweden, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

The survey shows that online games are very present in young people's lives – 82 per cent Latvian teenagers aged 15 play online games, and every fourth do it often. Almost a half describe themselves as frequent players, and three quarters of boys say they watch e-sports contests – that is to say competitions between people playing online games. For young people, this is both a kind of entertainment and a way of cheering themselves up, becoming creative and making new friends. Online games also have long-term benefits: 64 per cent of young people playing online believe that doing so allows them to acquire new skills, such as improve their command of the English language, their strategic thinking skills, and develop their creativity.

Many parents have to deal with teenagers spending too much time playing games and their consequences, such as neglecting studies and daily duties, as well as negative emotions affecting their children's behaviour. One of the most popular tactics chosen by parents is banning or restricting online games, which leads to a conflict between them and the teenagers. The survey also shows that online games have a positive impact, of which parents can take advantage. Thus, it is important that parents do not dissociate themselves from online games, but discuss their pros and cons with their children and agree on a healthy compromise.

More than half of Latvian young people in Latvia (44 per cent) admit playing online games at least once a week, which is the lowest result among the Nordic and Baltic countries. 9 per cent of them regularly watch e-sports, and 42 per cent consider e-sports as the most exciting sport. Over half of young Latvians (55 per cent) believe that their friends spend too much time playing online. One quarter (26 per cent) believe that playing online games is the most exciting thing in their lives.

Latvian teenagers emphasise that playing online games has a positive effect on their lives. 68 per cent believe they not only improve their playing skills, but also learn something new. For example, they work on their cooperation abilities and their English language skills. It is worth to note that 45 per cent say playing games helps them forget their problems.

Overall, they are also aware of the negative side-effects of playing online games. 65 per cent of Latvian young people know from their personal experience that sometimes, a game leads to a conflict between people. They are also aware of the risks entailed when communicating with unknown people online. 28 per cent feel are disappointed that they do not play online games well enough, which affects their self-esteem.

These opinions on playing online games were collected from 600 respondents aged 15, both in a quantitative survey and by developing cartoons, using Plotagon animation tools. The teenagers created in total 159 cartoons on four subjects – the positive and negative aspects of playing games, the role of online games in the life of the lives of young people. The Latvian SIC was involved in implementing the survey and organising creative workshops. The World Childhood Foundation, an organisation defending children's rights, was the global partner of the project. The survey and data analysis company Ipsos managed the study, analysed the data and prepared a report on the results.

More information about the initiative (in English) can be found on the website of Telia Company.

Find out more information about the work of the Latvian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services on the Better Internet for Kids (BIK) portal, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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