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Children and young people’s video game playing and literacy in 2021

Added 09 Aug 2021 | Updated 25 Nov 21

This report outlines findings from questions included in our Annual Literacy Survey in early 2021 to explore children and young people’s literacy-related interactions in relation to video game playing. The survey reached 42,502 children and young people aged 8 to 18 between January and mid-March 2021, during the third national lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The report builds on our earlier research exploring young people’s literacy-related interactions within and around video games.

Our first survey in this area, in 2019, found that video games could provide a route into reading and support creativity and communication.

A subsequent survey, covering late spring 2020 (the first national lockdown), found that communication through video game playing supported young people's wellbeing during the first national lockdown.

This survey found that in-game communication (reading text or messages from friends or family while playing video games) is the second most popular form of on-screen reading for this age group, after personal/ direct messages (e.g. via text, WhatsApp or Instagram).

  • 87.5% of children and young people say they read in-game messages, while 92.4% read personal/ direct messages
  • 84.2% of children and young people say they write text or messages while playing video games
  • More boys and older children say they read and write in-game communication, compared with girls, those who self-describe their gender differently as other than boy or girl and younger age groups
  • 3 in 5 (58.4%) children and young people said they had talked to or messaged friends more while playing video games in early 2021.

Children and young people's comments indicate that they believe that communicating while playing video games can help to maintain and improve friendships. In addition, comments suggested that while video game playing is an important part of their leisure time and social lives, young people enjoy playing video games alongside (rather than at the expense of) activities such as reading, writing, physical activity and socialising.

Find out more about our literacy and video games research and resources.
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