17 Feb A Social Network for Kids That’s Actually Safe
There’s a new social network in town and it’s not competing with the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat. Lego recently announced the launch of Lego Life, a social network for kids that are too young for the array of social media sites available today.
The building app is not meant to digitize or replace the physical act of building bricks, instead, the goal is to unlock kids’ imagination and inspire increased play with real Lego bricks. It’s described as a Pinterest – Instagram hybrid where kids can post pictures and videos of structures they’ve built or places their minifigs (miniature Lego figurines) have gone. The content consists mostly of Lego-sponsored games and challenges to get the kids to engage with their own Lego sets. By encouraging kids to put down their iPad and take pictures with their minfigs in real-life Lego structures they’ve built, the Lego team is hoping kids will find a balance between the real and virtual world.
Safety and security are front and center of concern for the network. With Lego’s target age demographic primarily being 7-12-year-olds, a lot of thought was put into the security of minor’s identity. Users under the age of 13 need parent permission through a request of parent’s email address (and confirmation from the parent) to sign up. Users then pick a completely randomized computer-generated 3-word user name that is geared for the humor of a seven-year-old, such as “CupcakeRubbleYell”. Profile pictures are not image-based, but instead, minfigs that can be customized. Everything that is posted is strictly Lego-related. All content, whether it’s a photo, video, or texts go through a three-step filtering process to ensure appropriateness for kids. A third-party system scans images and text and will alert a human to review anything flagged.
Per Lego Life’s website, “The LEGO® Group recognizes the unique challenges when developing web content for young audiences and the importance of properly protecting children when online.”
To continue safety across communication, Lego Life has created it’s own limited emoji keyboard and prewritten responses. Easy emotions like “wow” are displayed on Lego minfig faces or with other stickers. The app doesn’t have a dislike function, lessening the chances for kids to be cruel to each other. When a user unlikes an item, the app responds with a fart. For now, Lego has entire teams devoted to monitoring the online conversations and as time goes on, will work to safely automate some of the monitoring.
This isn’t the first time that the company has launched an online platform. In 2010, Lego Universe, a multiplayer game that allowed kids to build Lego structures online. A year later, Minecraft entered the competition and led to Lego Universe shutting down its servers by 2012.
Social networks, in general, constantly have to navigate safety and security. To add in a young demographic and everything gets more complicated. Lego seems to be taking that responsibility seriously. As of today, the app is free in the App Store or Google Play and will look to create a web-based version in the future.