Digital Play Shown To Be Good For Kids
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 03 May 2024

When designed with their needs in mind, video games can benefit children’s well-being. This finding comes research from  UNICEF in partnership with LEGO and the University of Sheffield.


The RITEC (Responsible Innovation with Technology and Ethics for Children) project set out to explore the question: can video games contribute to the well-being of children and, if so, how? Funded by the LEGO Foundation the research involved a scientific study of hundreds of children in six countries over many months undertaken by the University of Sheffield and other universities.

Dr Fiona Scott, from the School of Education at the University of Sheffield explained

“Children playing digitally has often been perceived negatively or valuable only when children are formally learning something. There has been much discussion in the press and within research about how children spending more time online can harm their well-being, but this study sought to find out if digital play experiences have benefits for children, and if so, how we can use this research to inform how digital games can be developed to better support these benefits in the future.”

Sheffield conducted research with 50 families of children aged from 6-12 from the UK, South Africa, Cyprus and Australia, gathering data about what drove different children to play digital games, how these drivers affected what they chose to play and how they played it, as well as their well-being.

unicef girl-cover

As reported by UNICEF, the research found that digital games can indeed contribute to the well-being of children. They can allow children to experience a sense of control, to have freedom of choice, to experience mastery and feelings of achievement. Digital games can support children in experiencing and regulating emotions and help them feel connected to others and manage those social connections. Children can imagine different possibilities, act on original ideas, make things, and explore, construct and express facets of themselves and others.

Digital play enabled children in the study to explore, construct and express aspects of their identities and to experience, develop greater awareness about and regulate their emotions.  It also supported them to think, act and make creatively, in contrast with some past media discussions, the digital play of children in the study allowed children to experience connectedness with others and be aware of others, including through nurture play.


A further report from the University of Sheffield, has more details of the methodology of the survey and its findings and lists 14 design principles that can support children’s well-being in different ways:

  1. Represent, and support equitable play for, diverse children and childhoods.

  2. Be, and feel, safe and secure.

  3. Provide opportunities to safely explore and experiment with identity.

  4. Offer opportunities for relaxation, emotional regulation and achieving 'flow' states.

  5. Offer opportunities to stimulate pleasurable and joyful sensations.

  6. Offer safe opportunities to experience and explore difficult emotions or those less commonly considered ‘positive’.

  7. Offer opportunities to create.

  8. Offer negotiable pre-set challenges and opportunities to create personal challenges.

  9. Provide opportunities to acquire and perform knowledge.

  10. Offer opportunities to collect, curate and classify.

  11. Offer opportunities to experience, explore and negotiate togetherness

  12. Provide opportunities to think about, tend and nurture others.

  13. Offer opportunities to exert and experience control, choice and agency

  14. Offer safe and supported opportunities to encounter and negotiate risk 

The report presents empirical evidence of the complex and variable relationship between children’s digital play and their subjective well-being.

unicef girl


More Information

RITEC Website

Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (UNICEF)

Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children website (University of Sheffield)

Children’s digital play and well-being (pdf)

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Last Updated ( Friday, 03 May 2024 )