By Cristy Burne
Australians can now be part of Lego Life, a social media app designed for kids as young as five.
It’s free, interactive, and includes animations, games and building challenges.
You can upload and comment on photos of your creations, and also things you’ve built from non-Lego sets.
“Lego Life creates a platform that amplifies the joy of building and pride of creation that children experience,” says Rob Lowe, the head of Lego Life.
Think before you click
Keeping safe online
* Lego Life doesn’t let you post photos of yourself. Instead you design your Lego character.
* You can’t use your name. Instead you’re given a computer-generated triple-barrel name like PresidentFlimsyRazcal, CaptainFluffyPants or RexSportyLamp.
* You can’t write anything that might identify you. Lego has adult moderators to look through everything you post. If they think you’re putting yourself at risk, or that your post might hurt or embarrass someone, it won’t be approved.
* You can’t receive mean comments. The only way users can comment is by using emojis or encouraging stickers.
Lego Life is designed with kids’ online safety in mind.
However, most social media apps – including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram – allow users to share photos and information with other people, even those you’ve never met.
You’re supposed to be 13 or older to use these sites, but research suggests more than a quarter of eight- to 12-year-old Aussies do.
Some kids – and adults – are tricked or bullied into using social media apps to share photos and information that puts them in danger.
Dr Joanne Orlando, an expert on children and technology from Western Sydney University, says: “The ways people present themselves online are not necessarily true. They can say whatever they want and it mightn’t be the truth. Sometimes people pretend to be other people.”
The Children’s eSafety Commissioner, Julie Inman Grant, agrees.
“Our advice for young people is to really think critically about the information you read online, and the information you share publicly,” she says.
Finding the balance
Megan Mitchell, the National Children’s Commissioner, says using social media can help you connect with other kids and learn about the world.
But it’s important to be aware of your feelings when you’re using them.
“If you’re not having a good time, if something’s going wrong in the online environment, talk to someone about it,” she says.
“The key thing is not to keep it to yourself and let it fester inside you. Make sure you seek help.”
She says it’s important to get a good balance between screen life and real life and kids and their parents should set those limits together.
Get into the real world
If you’re having trouble finding that balance, Dr Orlando suggests extending your online interests into the real world.
“If you like designing buildings online on a site like Minecraft, then try walking around your area or the city and looking at the buildings,” she says. “It’s a great way to get some new design tips.”
Keep things in perspective
Is this you?
Are you aged eight to 13 and using social media? Research by the eSafety Office found:
* 35 per cent of Aussie kids don’t stop to think about who can see their photos online;
* 25 per cent allow everyone to see their photos online;
* 43 per cent use the “check in” function, which lets others know where they are.
It’s essential to learn how to use social media safely and responsibly, says psychologist and parenting expert Karyn Healy.
“Connecting with friends online can strengthen your friendships, which can give you emotional support and help you stay well and happy,” she says. “So do talk to your parents about allowing you to have some time online on kid-friendly sites.”
Although hurtful comments aren’t allowed on Lego Life, Dr Healy says you can still be upset by, say, the number of likes or comments your post receives.
“It’s important that your parents … [help] you [put that] … into perspective,” she says.