Cannon House Office Building, Room 121

FOSI Briefs the Hill on Kids, Tech and Toys


July 12, 2019
Cannon House Office Building, Room 121

The Family Online Safety Institute hosted a FOSI Briefs the Hill event focused on young children, technology, and toys.

The panel was moderated by Stephen Balkam, CEO of FOSI and featured Fares Alraie from Mattel; Jennifer DuBuisson from the LEGO Group; Tami Bhaumik from Roblox; and parenting author Janell Burley Hofmann.

Fares Alraie spoke about the launch of Mattel’s new product, Hot Wheels id. He explained the safety and privacy considerations that went into the development of the new connected toy, and promoted the idea of mixed play that involve both on and offline experiences for children.

Jennifer DuBuisson shared the LEGO Group’s approach to belief in ‘fluid play’. LEGO creates a safe online experience in which children can play with anonymized screen names, graphic avatars, and curated keyboards of emojis that may prevent cyberbullying. All posts on this app are moderated prior to posting. DuBuisson stated that privacy and safety are non-negotiable for LEGO during design.

Tami Bhaumik shared ways in which children use Roblox to enrich their lives including developing entrepreneurial, marketing, and social skills. Children find and create online communities and are able to express themselves safely. Roblox believes in empowering children by using self-expression.

Janell Burley Hofmann spoke about the families she works with and noted that parents must be better educated about the technology that is being used in their home. She noted that parents often seek simple definitions for the terms being used in policies. Burley Hofmann urged industry to include easy, digestible, and free information about products because parents still sometimes make assumptions on what they are agreeing to when allowing a new device, game, or product at home.

The panelists discussed resiliency and mentorship, citing the fact that young people will make mistakes while online. All agreed that parental guidance is needed when upsetting things happen online. Burley Hofmann explained the importance of children having an “askable” or trusted adult in their lives with whom they can share their online mistakes and help navigate their situation.

Bhaumik stressed the importance of parents and children playing together to strengthen bonds and create opportunities for mentorship. DuBuisson shared that playing online allows children to develop digitally creative and competitive skills that will be useful for 21st century working. Alraie then spoke of ways to connect generations while using online play. He stated that Hot Wheels id connects older generations who grew up building tracks with children who would prefer to play on a device. Mentorship is provided in both directions by the child sharing tips with online play and the adult sharing values and lessons with a family cohesiveness.

The panelists then discussed COPPA compliance. DuBuisson said that LEGO believes in the right to privacy, information, and expression and noted that state and federal privacy policy discussions must be workable, pragmatic, and keep provisions with flexible timelines.

Alraie stated that Mattel puts a lot of resources into their privacy developments and noted that decisions made from above must be understandable for developers and creators down below.

All panelists agreed on the importance of industry incorporating safety by design, and parents playing with their children.

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