In a world of smartphones and tablets, it’s pretty hard to keep children away from the internet. Many parents still go for the veto approach, but there are also parents who are trying to find a balance when it comes to allowing their little ones into social media. Targeting the growing number of more experimental fathers and mothers, a series of applications and websites are popping up with the same concept: internet can be fun and safe.
Present in many parents’ childhood memories as the beloved construction blocks, Lego has revamped its brand with movies and video games, and now has its own social media network app called Lego Life.
No, Lego Life is not a building platform with digital bricks. It’s an app aimed at kids aged 7-12 years, who are too young for Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook. The same kids that would still — maybe — be interested in playing with construction blocks IRL.
Lego seems to have put in a lot of effort to make it safe and fun for kids. As a place to share your own Lego creations, it has the basic social media elements like newsfeed, profiles, likes and comments.
Even though its target audience is children, parental permission and supervisions are required for children to access the app. For example, parents receive an email requesting permission for their kids under 13 to sign up. To see more features of Lego Life, check this article from Wired Magazine.
In the UK, the app Go Bubble is being called the “Facebook for 7 year old kids.” Go Bubble is part of an online safety educational program called e-Cadets. It lets children chat with school friends, share jokes, pictures or videos. The difference is: the school is the centre of the social network at all times.
If you are a parent that wants to be able to monitor or keep a watchful eye on your kid’s online activity, KidMix, released in 2016, offers a Parent Dashboard that monitors kids’ activities on the app. This one resembles the newsfeed from Facebook and allows members to set up multi-kid playdates (which parents then accept, decline or modify).
Created for kids by kids, Marimba Chat is a messaging app designed by a father and his 8-year-old daughter. The app requires parents to sign in and approve friends’ requests so they can monitor their children’s social media activity and protect them from making friends with strangers. They can also set restrictions for chat hours, monitor live chats and review messages. Watch Annelise, the young app creator, describe the application in this video:
As a parent, it is hard to decide if kids should be allowed to use social media. A quick Google search reveals heated debates on blog posts that are for and against this issue. For undecided parents, a good suggestion would be take some time to read the American Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, to better understand how these apps are being created and be able to identify the good social networks from the bad ones. Being informed is always the best way to make a decision.
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