Digital Futures Commission

Last updated: 2023-02-05

About our SID activities

To understand what good looks like for children’s play in a digital world, we cut through today’s anxious confusion by integrating insights from multiple sources of expertise to synthesise the value of play in childhood. Informed by public consultation, we evaluated opportunities to transpose the qualities of play into digital contexts, and have proposed ways to enhance them. The results can be found in our report, Playful by Design: Free play in a digital world. Here we build on qualitative and quantitative research to set out how to make digital play safer, less compulsive, and better at fulfilling children's rights. 

Drawing on findings from our new #DigitalFutures survey, we publish new work on Safer Internet Day 2023 which shows that it’s important to pay attention to data and privacy. This is both because there is no safety online without privacy, and because our survey shows that UK schools are providing children with much more guidance about safety than about data privacy. So, there’s more work to do!

What we are doing to create a better internet...

Improvements are needed to the opportunities that society provides for play offline and online. The Digital Futures Commission focuses on the digital world – here, changes are required to policy, regulation and design. Safer Internet Day is the perfect time to call for more safety in children’s games online, as well as other digital services that children use for playful purposes. 

By setting safety in the context of free play, we draw attention to multiple problematic features of game design – compulsive, datafied, age-inappropriate, hateful, and commercially exploitative, as well as highlighting what the features that children want more of - including ease of use, creativity, affordability and kindness.

In our research, in addition to problematising the current state of play online and offline, we also lay out a pathway for designing free play, informed by the experiences and voices of children and young people.

About us

At the Digital Futures Commission (DFC), hosted by 5Rights, our ambition is to recentre our increasingly digitised world on the developmental requirements of children and their rights.

Our work focuses on three areas: play in a digital world, beneficial uses of education data, and guidance for innovators. In each of our workstreams, we aim to put the needs and interests of children and young people into the minds and work plans of digital innovators, business, regulators, and governments.

Our work is informed by the voices of children and young people, and underpinned by critical research into how children’s lives are being reconfigured by innovation. Backed by these two components, we are addressing designers, developers, and policymakers with practical recommendations geared at reimagining the digital world in value-sensitive ways that uphold children’s rights and are responsive to children’s needs.

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Sonia Livingstone

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