Rob Lowe,Lego

How Lego Built a Social Network for Kids That’s Not Creepy

January 31, 2017
in Kids

There are Lego bricks and Lego movies, Lego videogames and Lego books. The stackable, sortable plastic molds permeate all corners of society. Today, it carves out a new space online: Lego Life, a social network built specifically for kids. The entire experience is contained within an app that’s available in the App Store and in Google Play. A place for kids to share their Lego designs makes sense enough; niche communities provide the internet’s foundation. What’s most interesting about Lego Life, though, isn’t that it exists. It’s how Lego worked to create a pastoral place on the internet, one where the exchange of ideas and inventions remains unsullied by, well, the usual. La Vida Lego From far enough away, Lego Life looks a bit like a brick-themed Instagram. It has all the standard social network elements: a newsfeed, profiles, and the ability to like and comment. A closer look, though, reveals a careful crafted ecosystem designed with safety at the top of mind. There’s the sign-up process, for starters. Anyone under 13—which is to say, the bulk of the core audience—needs permission from parents to join, which is obtained by providing mom or dad’s email address and getting separate confirmation. (Lego doesn’t explicitly keep people older than 13 out of Lego Life.) Could a savvy nine-year-old fake her way through that process? Possibly! But the real work of making Lego kid-friendly comes after that initial hurdle. For starters, Lego Life assigns new participants an anonymous, randomly generated user name. Rather than roaming the digital corridors as Johnny Tween, they’ll go by three-word jumble, like DukeCharmingShrimp. They are no profile pictures here, either; instead, users can trick out minifig avatars with a range of clothing, hair, and accessories. Even if a kid did make their avatar as close to their real appearance as possible, there’s little risk of identifying features, unless that child has a lemon-yellow head the shape of a propane tank. Then there’s the newsfeed itself, populated by a mix of branded content (hello, Lego Batman!), suggested builds to try, and user uploads of projects they’ve worked on at home. “When you first use the feed, it’s kind of random,” says Rob Lowe, who headed up Lego Life. “It’s a mix of user-generated content, things they make themselves, and things that we’ve created, like challenges” that are the Lego version of a writer’s prompt. Rather than let the possibilities of a pile of bricks overwhelm, Lego Life...

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