Child Wellbeing in A Digital Age: Trends and Outcomes

Daniel Kardefelt-Winther, Marium Saeed, Sanaa Al-Harahsheh, Shekhar Saxena, Ahmed Aref, Dana Al Kahlout, Abdulla Al-Mohannadi

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


As digital technology becomes more prominent in the lives of children around the
globe, the risks and harms that digital technology may pose to children’s well-being is receiving considerable attention. The rapid increase in screen time has been a major concern, including the consequences this might have on children’s social lives as well as their physical and mental health. With the increased reliance on digital technology, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, these concerns have only intensified.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), studies have shown a vast increase in digital connectivity in the region even before COVID-19. It is plausible that younger
segments of the population, particularly children who grew up with digital technology, are even more immersed in the digital world than adults. Yet, evidence generation on how this connectivity is influencing children and young people’s well-being in MENA remains scarce.

This paper takes stock of existing evidence around children’s use of digital technology
in relation to three well-being outcomes: social relationships, mental health, and
physical health. It considers both the benefits and risks that may be present in children’s digital experiences, whilst also recognizing that online risks do not automatically turn into harm. It also considers the latest evidence on gaming disorder, which has been highlighted as a particular area of concern by the World Health Organization.
Although evidence on the relationship between digital technology and aspects of
child well-being remain inconclusive, there are a few areas – such as the impact on
social relationships – where fairly strong evidence suggests that the internet can be a
facilitator of positive outcomes for children. However, much of this evidence centers
on communities in North America and Europe. It is difficult to draw conclusions around children’s digital use in the Middle East without a stronger evidence base, and a deeper understanding of children’s unique experiences with digital technology in the MENA region.
The evidence base on gaming disorder is currently weak and requires strengthening
before this research can underpin policy and practice development; it is the hope that the new definition from the WHO will support such a positive development.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages44
ISBN (Electronic)978-1-913991-16-6
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2022


  • Child wellbeing
  • Digital age


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