Keeping up with the latest in online gaming can be a multi-level challenge for parents - especially when what's ‘cool’ seems to change at the speed of a mouse click. One of today's most popular games for children is also frequented by adults, which raises important questions about online safety.
Roblox has been called "the world's most popular game you've never heard of." This massive multiplayer online gaming platform has recently outstripped even Minecraft's user numbers and currently has over 43 million daily active users. While the platform may seem like an innocent digital playground for children, there is the potential for young people to come into contact with inappropriate content and ill-intentioned adults within its virtual worlds. For this reason, parents need to familiarise themselves with some of the basics of the Roblox virtual world.
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Roblox is a vast multiplayer online platform where kids can create and interact in what its makers describe as "immersive 3D worlds." Players are given the opportunity to create an avatar (player) and select from a variety of different physical features, as well as accessories and outfits that are available to purchase with “Robux” inside the platform’s Catalog. This platform aspect is a massive drawcard for many young children who want to make their avatars look as cool as possible. It is also the feature that has made Roblox an increasingly attractive marketing opportunity for many global brands (like Nike and Gucci, who have created their own ‘exclusive’ experiences for players within the platform).
Players can choose to participate as ‘just’ players (by downloading Roblox Player after creating an account) or, if they would like to flex their coding skills and build their own worlds, they will need to download Roblox Studio. From there, their imagination is the limit in terms of the experiences they can create. The platform also allows them to communicate with other players and invite them to co-create experiences. This social aspect of the gaming platform worries parents and why children’s participation on the platform needs some level of supervision.
There are four key potential risks children may encounter as they explore, play, and create inside the virtual world of Roblox: being contacted by ill-intentioned adults, encountering inappropriate adult content, facing online bullying from their peers, and overspending inside the Roblox Catalog. Parents are encouraged to have frequent discussions with their children about all of these risks. In this article, we will primarily focus on the risk of contact with ill-intentioned adults.
Roblox was designed with the intention of being a highly social and interactive environment, where players interact with existing friends and make new ones by wandering around the different user-generated worlds and stopping to talk with other players. Players can also invite friends to co-play and co-create with them within individual games. Like any online multiplayer platform, there is no restriction over the types of people who can join, and there isn’t really any age verification in place (yet). Despite the fact that strict chat filters can be activated - Roblox uses AI to pre-screen content and block inappropriate words and phrases - children are still vulnerable to being contacted by online predators.
This problem isn't unique to Roblox. Throughout the online gaming world, wherever games are marketed to children, online predators lurk. Social games like these are often used to gradually lure children away from the gaming platform and onto other social platforms like Instagram and Snapchat, and even ones like Skype in some cases. Roblox especially appeals to children under 12, with research showing that half of all American children aged 9-12 play Roblox weekly, and this age group lacks the ability to understand the range of potential risks that lie behind accepting inappropriate friend requests from strangers.
"The chat function poses a real danger to children engaging with this popular gaming platform," explains psychologist Jordan Foster, a leading Online Safety Expert at Family Zone. "While Roblox has done a solid job of putting certain safety measures in place and has provided parents with the option of setting up Account Restrictions, younger children can still be easy prey for predators to communicate with.
"Consider it similar to sending a young child out into a vast unfamiliar environment in the ‘real’ world, without providing them with any tips, tools or supervision to ensure their safety and increase their resourcefulness.'
For these reasons, Ms Foster regards Roblox as unsafe for children under the age of 12 and possibly older children. She encourages parents to take advantage of Roblox’s Account Restrictions, to have frequent family conversations about online safety and digital wellness, and even to go as far as co-play their children’s favourite games with them.
As part of Family Zone’s many helpful features, we can block Roblox from your children’s devices without blocking other games they may be allowed to play.
But our resources go even further. We understand that navigating the journey as a digital parent can be difficult. Our Online Experts are here to help you sort out what apps and content are appropriate for your child and provide the tools and resources you need to protect your children online.
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