Video games can have a positive impact on children – if they are designed right, says new study

New research shows games can be good for children

29 April 2024
Girl playing on her computer

FLORENCE, ITALY, 30 APRIL 2024 – Video games can potentially contribute to and support the well-being of children if they are designed with the needs of children in mind, according to new research from UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight.

This research was produced as part of the Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children (RITEC) project, an international collaboration between organizations that believe the design and development of digital technology should support the rights and well-being of children. The project was co-founded by UNICEF and the LEGO Group and is funded by the LEGO Foundation.

The study found that digital games, when designed well, can allow children to experience a sense of control, have freedom of choice, experience mastery and feelings of achievement, experience and regulate emotions, feel connected to others and manage those social connections, imagine different possibilities, act on original ideas, make things, and explore, construct and express facets of themselves and others. These experiences are all important for children’s well-being and can support their development.

This new research – which was produced in partnership with the University of Sheffield, New York University, City University New York and the Queensland University of Technology – establishes that digital games companies and games designers can and should support the well-being of children through the games they produce, convincingly demonstrating that digital play has a particularly positive impact on children’s well-being when it responds to their deep interests, needs and desires.

“For decades, people have often assumed that playing video games is somehow bad for children, undermining their well-being. But our new study paints a far more complex picture – one in which these games can actually contribute to children’s well-being and positively support them as they grow up,” said Bo Viktor Nylund, Director of UNICEF Innocenti.

“But not all children are impacted positively by video games, and – crucially – not all games are having a positive impact on children. In fact, for games to support the well-being of children, game designers must take the needs of children into account and design games that support those needs,” Nylund said.

Anna Rafferty, Senior Vice President of Digital Consumer Engagement, the LEGO Group, said: “This exciting research from UNICEF and leading academics shows that safe and inclusive digital play can have a profoundly positive impact on children’s lives. We’re proud to be partnering with like-minded organisations to understand how digital experiences can be designed in a way that puts children’s well-being first. These findings will empower responsible businesses to create a digital future where children are safe, nurtured and equipped to thrive.”

The study found that games can support children’s senses of autonomy, competence, creativity and identity, as well as help them regulate emotions and build relationships. But in order to support one or more of these aspects of well-being, games need to contain certain features. For example, to support children’s sense of autonomy, a game could put them in control, allow them to make decisions about gameplay and encourage them to develop their own strategies to progress. Or to support creativity, a game could allow children to freely explore and solve problems or create their own characters or narratives.

Said Nylund: “This research helps us understand not only how video games can impact the well-being of children, but also helps the producers and designers of these games understand what elements they can include to support children. We hope they will consider these findings as they design the games our children will be playing in the future.”

And while safety and security of children playing digital games – a vital topic which is already the subject of much research – were not as strong a focus in this study, it was still found to be of fundamental importance to protect the well-being of children.

Also included in the RITEC project is the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the Young & Resilient Research Centre at Western Sydney University; the CREATE Lab at New York University; the Graduate Center, City University of New York; the University of Sheffield and the Australian Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.

Today’s release of a report (link) on the research and its findings will be followed later this year by the launch of a guide to assist businesses to incorporate these findings into the games they design.

The study comprised three research initiatives: experimental research through a multi-week digital play intervention involving 255 children aged between eight and 12 in the US, Chile and South Africa; observational research in the homes of 50 families over a 14-month period with children aged between six and 12 in Australia, Cyprus, South Africa and the UK; and lab-based research measuring heart rate, eye tracking, facial expressions and galvanic skin response of 69 children playing digital games, aged between seven and 13 in Australia.

Research partners in Chile, Cyprus, South Africa, United Kingdom and the United States, including those associated with the Centre for Creative Education, the University of Cape Town, Curtin University, Universidad de Chile, University of Cyprus and University of Oulu, helped conduct this research and contributed their expert knowledge and understanding of local contexts.


Notes to editors:

Read the report here.

UNICEF does not endorse any company, brand, product or service.

For more information, please contact:

Adam Cathro, UNICEF Innocenti, Florence, Italy, Tel: +39 344 491 4695,


The RITEC (Responsible Innovation in Technology for Children) project was co-founded by UNICEF and the LEGO Group and is funded by the LEGO Foundation. The project is being delivered in partnership with the Joan Ganz Cooney Center, the Young & Resilient Research Centre at Western Sydney University; the CREATE Lab at New York University; the Graduate Center, City University of New York; the University of Sheffield and the Australian Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child.


UNICEF Innocenti – Global Office of Research and Foresight tackles the questions of greatest importance for children, both current and emerging. It drives change through research and foresight on a wide range of child rights issues, sparking global discourse and actively engaging young people in its work.

UNICEF Innocenti equips thought leaders and decision-makers with the evidence they need to build a better, safer world for children. The office undertakes research on unresolved and emerging issues, using primary and secondary data that represents the voices of children and families themselves. It uses foresight to set the agenda for children, including horizon scanning, trends analysis and scenario development. The office produces a diverse and dynamic library of high-level reports, analyses and policy papers, and provides a platform for debate and advocacy on a wide range of child rights issues.

UNICEF Innocenti provides, for every child, answers to their most pressing concerns.


UNICEF works in the world’s toughest places to reach the most disadvantaged children and adolescents – and to protect the rights of every child, everywhere. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we do whatever it takes to help children survive, thrive and fulfill their potential, from early childhood through adolescence.

About the LEGO Group

The LEGO Group’s mission is to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow through the power of play. The LEGO System in Play, with its foundation in LEGO bricks, allows children and fans to build and rebuild anything they can imagine. The LEGO Group was founded in Billund, Denmark in 1932 by Ole Kirk Kristiansen, its name derived from the two Danish words LEg GOdt, which mean “Play Well”. Today, the LEGO Group remains a family-owned company headquartered in Billund. However, its products are now sold in more than 120 countries worldwide. 


For more news from the LEGO Group, information about our financial performance and responsibility engagement, please visit

About the LEGO Foundation

The LEGO Foundation aims to inspire and develop the builders of tomorrow; a mission that it shares with the LEGO Group. The LEGO Foundation is dedicated to building a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. Its work is about re-defining play and re-imagining learning. In collaboration with thought leaders, influencers, educators and parents the LEGO Foundation aims to equip, inspire and activate champions for play.

Media contacts

Adam Cathro
Communications Specialist
UNICEF Innocenti - Global Office for Research and Foresight
Tel: +39 344 491 4695

About UNICEF Innocenti

UNICEF Innocenti is UNICEF’s dedicated research centre. It undertakes research on emerging or current issues in order to inform the strategic directions, policies and programmes of UNICEF and its partners, shape global debates on child rights and development, and inform the global research and policy agenda for all children, and particularly for the most vulnerable. 

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UNICEF works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

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