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Daniel Kardefelt Winther

Research Specialist (Digital)

Daniel Kardefelt-Winther leads UNICEF’s research programme on Children and Digital Technologies, at the Office of Research. He works at the intersection of child rights and digital technology and has several years of experience in designing, implementing and managing cross-national comparative evidence generation projects involving children and adults. In his role at UNICEF, Daniel manages the Global Kids Online and Disrupting Harm projects, generating evidence with children in more than 30 low-middle income countries. His work involves developing new research methodologies to study how digital technology impacts children’s lives, manage project implementation, conduct data analysis and support researcher training, government engagement and research uptake. He also supports UNICEF offices around the world with research expertise, training, knowledge management and capacity building initiatives, working alongside national governments and researcher partners. Daniel holds degrees in Computer Science (BSc) and Psychology (BSc) from Stockholm University, as well as in Management (MSc) and Media & Communications (PhD) from the London School of Economics. He also holds a post-doctoral research position in the Department of Clinical Neuroscience at the Karolinska Institute.
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There is broad agreement that internet access is important for children and provides them with many opportunities. Yet crucial questions remain about what we hope children will do online and if the opportunities provided are translating into clear benefits. What do children actually need to be able to benefit from the opportunities that the internet brings? Is there a gap between expectations and reality? The answers to these questions matter to: Governments striving to provide connectivity for families in homes, schools and communities; parents and educators who must overcome problems of cost, risk, or lack of skill, so that children may benefit from online opportunities; child rights advocates and practitioners who call for resources to empower and protect children online; and children themselves, many of whom want to take advantage of online opportunities for personal benefit.


Sonia Livingstone; Daniel Kardefelt Winther; Petar Kanchev; Patricio Cabello; Magdalena Claro; Patrick Burton; Joanne Phyfer

Based on an evidence-focused literature review, the first part of this paper examines existing knowledge on how the time children spend using digital technology impacts their well-being across three dimensions; mental/psychological, social and physical. The evidence reviewed here is largely inconclusive with respect to impact on children’s physical activity, but indicates that digital technology seems to be beneficial for children’s social relationships. In terms of impact on children’s mental well-being, the most robust studies suggest that the relationship is U-shaped, where no use and excessive use can have a small negative impact on mental well-being, while moderate use can have a small positive impact. In the second part of the paper, the hypothetical idea of addiction to technology is introduced and scrutinized. This is followed by an overview of the hypothetical idea that digital technology might re-wire or hijack children’s brains; an assumption that is challenged by recent neuroscience evidence. In conclusion, considerable methodological limitations exist across the spectrum of research on the impact of digital technology on child well-being, including the majority of the studies on time use reviewed here, and those studies concerned with clinical or brain impacts. This prompts reconsideration of how research in this area is conducted. Finally, recommendations for strengthening research practices are offered.


Responding to Screen Time Concerns: A Children’s Rights Approach (17 Apr 2019)

Over the past decade there has been escalating concern that the time children spend using digital technology might be harmful. Calls have be ...

Zhang Haibo is taking children’s opinions about digital technology seriously (01 Feb 2018)

This statement: “Children use digital technology for specific reasons and it is important to take their opinions and explanations ...


The Screen Time Debate: What Do We Really Know About the Effects of Children’s Time Online?


Child rights in the digital age

Facilitating cross-national research in the global South on children’s digital experiences.