UNICEF study finds video games can boost children’s well-being when properly designed

The study, part of the Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC) project, shows that games offering choices, fostering creativity, and enabling social connections can positively impact child development.

Elementary school children using digital tablet in classroom, Education.

New research from UNICEF Innocenti’s Global Office of Research and Foresight, as part of the Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC) project, suggests that video games can significantly enhance the well-being of children if designed thoughtfully.

This international collaboration, co-founded by UNICEF and the LEGO Group and funded by the LEGO Foundation, highlights that well-designed digital games can promote children’s autonomy, competence, creativity, identity, emotion regulation, and relationship building.

The study, conducted in partnership with the University of Sheffield, New York University, City University New York and the Queensland University of Technology, found that digital games offer children valuable experiences such as a sense of control, mastery, achievement, and the ability to explore personal and social identities. However, the positive impact of games depends on their ability to cater to children’s unique needs and desires.

As digital games evolve, the research advocates for designs prioritising young players’ safety, creativity, and emotional development, potentially redefining gaming’s role in nurturing future generations.

Why does it matter?

Traditionally, video games have been viewed with scepticism, often considered detrimental to the psychological and emotional development of children, especially because of their often addictive features. However, this new study suggests a nuanced perspective, prompting a reevaluation of how games are crafted and integrated into children’s lives rather than attempting to eliminate video games from children’s lives—a challenging and potentially counterproductive approach.