So you want your kids to be more involved with others, to be socially adept and be more civic minded? Got the answer for ya.

Play more video games.

Okay . . . maybe it’s not that clear cut yet but a recent piece of research strongly suggests that current types of video games and they way that teenagers play them will increase teen civic involvement.

The Pew Internet and American Life Project just published the results of a comprehensive survey that tracks not just how much kids play and what kids play but what they are doing while they play. Kristin Kalning over at MSNBC talked with the study’s authors.

it’s the first, says study co-author Joe Kahne, to track the sorts of things kids do when playing — not just how much time they spend playing. “It’s really valuable to focus heavily on the quality of those experiences,” he says.

Game experiences “can be quite valuable from the standpoint of civic and political engagement.”

And just for review, in case the high school social studies content is a bit fuzzy, civic involvement in the real world include things such as raising money for a public cause, staying informed about political issues, volunteering in the community and reading about current affairs as well as voting, protesting and joining a political party.

The report defines civic gaming experiences as:

  • helping or guiding other players
  • playing a game where one learns about a problem in society
  • playing a game that explores a social issue of importance to the player
  • playing a game where a player has to think about moral or ethical issues
  • playing a game where a player has to make decisions about how a community, city or nation should be run
  • organizing game groups or guilds

The cool thing is that based on the research, we’re finding out that

teens who have civic gaming experiences report much higher levels of civic and political engagement than teens who have not had these kinds of experiences.

An earlier post about the recent release of the Spore video game discussed a few of the things that social studies teachers could do with the game. This research seems to support the idea that playing “god-like” games such as Spore can lead to better citizens.

The report’s conclusions also fly in the face of those who suggest that games create solitary loners who never leave their darkened basements. We need to continue to use research such as this to support the growing movement of using games and simulations in the education.

Especially when it comes to civics and social studies.