Empowering children to engage in the digital world
By Niels B. Christiansen
At the LEGO Group, children are our role models. They are always exploring, creating and discovering. They are intuitive learners with a hands-on and minds-on approach to life. Play is critical to inspiring this innate approach to learning, and creative play experiences can empower children to learn and develop critical life skills.
I have seen how important play was for my own two children. It encouraged them to invent, problem-solve, collaborate and have fun. It is a powerful force and an essential element of every child’s development. Research has consistently shown that play is not just enjoyable – it also fulfils a crucial role in learning and preparing children for challenges in childhood and throughout adulthood.
As more and more children around the world connect digitally, the importance of delivering playful experiences within safe online playgrounds has become a vital issue for the toy industry to address. For 85 years our company values of imagination, creativity, fun, learning, caring and quality have been instrumental in the LEGO Group’s commitment to providing the best play experiences with LEGO® bricks. Those same values now guide our ambition to deliver inspiring and safe digital experiences.
Innovation in digital technology represents a tremendous opportunity for bringing playful and educational experiences to children around the world. However, it also presents fresh challenges for responsible brands that strive to deliver high levels of safety, while inspiring empowerment and creativity in children as they grow and develop.
Together with our partners and industry experts, we strive for our digital experiences to be as safe for children as our physical play materials. We were the first company in the toy industry to establish a global partnership with UNICEF, and we are committed to promoting and implementing the Children’s Rights and Business Principles in our work. UNICEF and the International Telecommunication Union’s Guidelines for Industry on Child Online Protection have been incorporated into the development and implementation of the LEGO Group’s Digital Child Safety policy. The policy affirms our respect and support for the rights of children, strengthens child protection governance across the company and underlines the LEGO Group’s commitment to providing safe and enjoyable digital experiences, while empowering children to play, learn and share.
We’ve learned from millions of consumers around the world that parents understand that digital technology is now integral to their children’s lives, and there is overwhelming support for trusted partners to provide social media channels designed for children’s use.
Social media offers fantastic possibilities for children to connect with each other across the world and share creativity and play experiences. We believe children should have access to social networking and have developed LEGO® Life, a safe social platform just for children and ‘tweens’ that inspires them to build and share their stories and creations with thousands of other children around the world. It is designed to be a child’s first digital social experience, taking users by the hand and introducing them to some of the core concepts of a social network.
Included in LEGO Life is our safety pledge, which provides support for parents to talk to their children about digital safety while establishing a shared commitment to ground rules for online social behaviour. We encourage parents to share digital experiences together with their children, take interest in their favourite apps, talk about digital protection and take the safety pledge (Be Safe, Be Cool, Respect others and Have fun) together with their children.
We believe that responsible brands, hand in hand with parents, have a significant role to play in ensuring that the evolution of technology contributes to children’s well-being and development. However, governments also have an important role to play – a role that is not simply about adding new rules and restrictions, but one that reflects on the broader legislative framework and seeks to ensure that this does not stifle children’s creativity, nor tie the hands of responsible companies seeking to use technology to inspire and excite.
As we look to the future, therefore, it is important that we strike the right balance. A balance between protection and empowerment. A balance that gives children and parents the confidence necessary for fun and independent play but avoids the level of disruption that may drive children away from safe online spaces. A balance that respects children’s right to privacy and the importance of parental consent yet, recognizes that digital play experiences can help children develop vital skills for the twenty-first century.
At the LEGO Group, we believe that the road to success is found through strong partnerships. By working together, industry, parents, policymakers and civil society can deliver safe, inspiring and empowering digital play experiences for children.
Niels B. Christiansen has been CEO of the LEGO Group since October 2017. Before joining the company, he was the CEO of Danfoss A/S and, earlier, executive vice president at GN Store Nord. Niels has a Master of Science in Engineering from the Technical University of Denmark and holds an MBA from INSEAD in France.
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