Thursday, February 29 2024

Four years ago, the social network Lego Life was born.
The app, designed for children ages 5-13, was a creation that the Lego
company guaranteed, from the start, was safe and met all the highest
standards of privacy and computer security.

Lego Life contains a whole series of features that seem to have been
created specifically to reassure parents: the creation of an avatar
instead of registration with personal data; the verification and
preliminary check by Lego staff, before uploading any images; the
presence of a character called “captain” who, via message, warns users
and supervises them as they navigate the app; lastly, the ability to
comment, which is controlled by a filter which weeds out indecent or
offensive comments. According to the Danish company’s slogan, this new
digital world seeks to further inspire our children’s creativity.

But at this point, it’s probably worth asking a few questions about
Lego Life. First, is Lego Life really a child-friendly social network?
And second, is Lego Life all that safe?

Regardless of all the services that this app offers, we should consider
whether the Lego company’s intentions are so disinterested and, above
all, if social networks in general are suitable for children.

Playing with Legos is like a rite of passage for children, who no doubt
recall little bricks lying around the house here and there. It was a
game we all played indoors – creating, breaking it down, then
recreating something new. That was the magic of Legos! So, in our
opinion, children don’t really need to be on the internet where they
are told how to build something and then upload it online. It seems to
be more like something that we adults have artificially created for
them.

It would be a real shame if such a creative, hands-on game with
colorful mini blocks took a back seat to cell phone screens. Knowing
how addictive electronic devices and the internet can be, wouldn’t it
be better to offer children alternatives before sending them into the
trap of electronic games?

And that’s not all! There are studies that prove social media is a
threat to young people’s self-esteem. That “like” button affects much
more than we can imagine. The moment a post or an image is uploaded, we
subconsciously expect that there will be a positive reaction. And our
children are not immune to this. They too, like adults, want to be
accepted and well-liked in the virtual community in which they are
immersed, waiting for that moment when they get a “like” on their post…
this will ultimately either make them feel good or deflate their
self-esteem.

Then there’s the problem of privacy, which we’ll explore in just one
example. Suppose that one afternoon, two kids meet in a park. Even
though they may share the same games that afternoon, they will still be
strangers. Now let’s see how the same situation plays out on social
media. Someone we don’t know sends us a friend request. Do we accept
it? Most likely, if we have things in common, such as a passion for
playing with Legos. After all, isn’t that the same thing? So why do we
shy away from real friendships and accept virtual ones?

Also, if we allow our children to become accustomed to interacting with
others through a screen, they will miss out on the chance and joy of
interacting with a friend face-to-face. If they become used to “playing
games” by uploading their artistic creations online, they will begin to
depend on the screen for everything.

At this point, the answers to the questions we asked at the beginning
seem to be coming to light. It’s not a question of whether Lego Life is
safe or not. A social network in and of itself is not safe for
children. And it’s not just about cyber bullying, which is, in any
case, still a possible threat lying just around the corner. There’s
another kind of safety we don’t talk about: the protection of our
children’s psyche, their mental health, and value systems.

Canadian educator Catherine L’Ecuyer has done numerous studies and
publications on these issues, particularly on the importance of
imagination in early childhood. Giving a child the ability to share and
post their creations online in Lego Life kills their sense of
imagination, because the simple act of creating will lose importance…
while their vanity in their creations only grow.

Our kids will have plenty of time for social networks in the future. In
the meantime, let’s ensure their mental health is safe, protect their
innocence, and continue to leave the doors of dreams, creativity, and
imagination open to them.

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