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 is also one of the most dangerous.
Roblox has been called "the world's most popular game you've never heard of." In fact, this massive multiplayer online game has recently outstripped even Minecraft's user numbers. While the game may seem like an innocent digital playground for children, there are some frightening issues with its online community.
What is Roblox about?
Roblox is a vast 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) for themselves and allotted a small amount of digital money to rent a house. Money to furnish and decorate the house requires real world money, with costs adding up fast. A variety of different outfits are also available to purchase which is a huge drawcard for many young children who want to make their avatar look as cool as possible. Players who don’t buy upgrades may be mocked by other players and pressured into spending more.
Why is it such a risk to children?
But additional purchases are not the biggest issue with this game - the social interaction amongst players is. The purpose of Roblox is for players to interact and make friends. This is achieved by wandering around the online world and stopping to talk with other players within an unmoderated chat feature. Like any online multiplayer game, there is little to no control over the types of people or age limits of those playing the game. Despite the fact that strict chat filters can be activated - blocking inappropriate words and phrases - children are still susceptible to being targeted by online predators.
This problem isn't unique to Roblox. Far from it. Throughout the online gaming world, wherever games are marketed to children, online predators lurk. Social games like this are often used as a platform to lure children away from the game and onto other platforms: eg., Facebook, Snapchat and even in some cases Skype. Roblox appeals directly children under 12, easy targets who lack the ability to discriminate between appropriate and inappropriate requests.
The game invites players to explore imaginary worlds of all kinds. Some of these are sexual in nature. One British dad who decided to check out the game his sons were obsessed with was shocked to discover avatars having virtual sex, ABC News reported in 2017.
"The chat function poses a real danger to children playing this popular game," explains ySafe psychologist Jordan Foster, a leading Cyber Expert at Family Zone. "With limited safety measures embedded within the game, children are open prey for predators to communicate with.
"Consider it similar to sending a child out into a real room filled with strangers, with no barriers in place to stop people being able to talk to whomever they like.'
For these reasons, Ms. Foster regards Roblox as unsafe for children under the age of 12 and possibly older children as well.
How can I protect my kids?
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. The lack of moderation (despite language filters) in the chat feature and uploaded user content leaves children at risk of exposure to a worrying range of inappropriate adult content, bullying and abuse.
Need help setting up your Family Zone account? We’re here to help. Just email firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact your school’s IT specialist.