The findings of the research, in brief, were:
Well-being is holistic:
For children, well-being is physical health and safety but also mental stability and positive emotion. Most importantly, well-being is social, linked to loving others, and being loved by family and friends.
Diversity, equity and inclusion matter:
Children experience a range of barriers to digital engagement, ranging from limited internet access to app costs and culturally inappropriate content. Insights from our consultation with children, many from low- or middle-income countries, signal issues yet to be addressed adequately either by research or by industry.
Social connection is key:
Exploratory analysis of survey data showed that for children in some countries, engaging in social activities online – with friends, parents and teachers – was positively associated with many aspects of well-being. Using social media was associated with a sense of belonging, stronger peer relationships, and confidence. Parents, caregivers and teachers who engaged positively and supportively with their children’s digital technology use were found to have, overall, a better relationship with their children, though the causal direction is unclear. When asked specifically about play, many children said they have more fun when they are playing with friends. Many games designed by children in the workshops had a prosocial element where they collaborated or helped others. Some children felt safer when playing together.
Safety is a priority:
Children want digital content to be appropriate for their age, and for the digital spaces in which they interact not to expose them to violence, inappropriate language and sexual content. Children expressed that they did not appreciate coming across such content unexpectedly, and they want to be able to predict that the content they encounter will not be shocking to them. Children want safeguards in place to ensure they can: manage advertizing, chatting and trolling; socialize with peers of a similar age; and be supported to manage their time. Children’s safety concerns were echoed by parents and flagged by stakeholders as an ongoing challenge.
Creativity is integral:
For children, creativity was interlinked with other processes and benefits, from learning to self-confidence. Creativity is not so much a distinct goal or play style, but occurs during an experience or as a by-product of digital play, alongside other outcomes.
Play is diverse:
From competition to collaboration, children told us they play in many different ways, and that different play experiences contribute in distinct ways to their well-being. Parents and stakeholders recognize this and aim to support a wide variety of play, including quieter and reflective play.
Digital play has limits:
Children mentioned downsides to digital play experiences, from isolation to boredom and negative affect. In contrast, physical games were generally seen as more adaptable, more social and more physically engaging, points also echoed by parents. There are clear opportunities for industry to innovate and improve digital play.