Roblox is the world’s largest social platform ‘for play’, and self-described ‘best place to imagine with friends’. With over 56 million active users (as of July, 2017), Roblox has almost surpassed Minecraft in terms of popularity with children.
However there is a big difference between Roblox and Minecraft. Unlike Minecraft, where children play in their own private game environment, Roblox users play alongside one another, and have the ability to chat and interact.
As you can imagine, those chatting and interacting on the platform includes predators. One father reported after spending just 15 minutes on his 8 year old son’s account to see what his child was doing, he was propositioned. Within minutes, he was approached, asked his age and gender by unknown users. After replying that he was an ‘8 year old boy’, he was told he was ‘sexy’ and ‘cute’, and was asked to follow them into a private room where they attempted to simulate sex acts.
Roblox is a game targeted towards children between 8 and 12 years old.
To say this man was outraged his children had open access to behavior like this is obviously an understatement.
Sadly, activity like this on an online children’s game is hardly surprising. Predators have always flocked to children’s open-world platforms like Club Penguin and Habbo Hotel, and there is little that can be done to stop them. Roblox is open for business. Peak activity can reach over 1 million users playing at a time. And with traffic like that, and only 163 employees, Roblox can do little to properly moderate what goes on on their platform.
Thankfully, parents and guardians can administer some control over what their children can see and do on the platform.
Shortly after the incident above went public, Roblox added some additional features to enhance their child safety initiatives. These include:
- The ability for parents to to shut-off chat capability for their child’s account. This allows the child to still play the game, but they will be unable to communicate with any other players via the chat functionality.
- Age visibility, designed to help parents easily determine the settings for their kids are appropriate for their age.
- More stringent chat controls for users under 13 years old, to restricting a greater range of words. (Swearing is already banned, but there are many well-known workarounds to these rules).
They also claim to have expanded their moderation team, to aggressively delete any content they deem not appropriate. However with tens of millions of users, they certainly have their work cut out for them.
So, the bottom line. What’s the Internet Safe Education verdict on Roblox?
The developers of Roblox do seem to have pretty noble intentions of fostering creativity and imagination. However, any platform that gives potential predators open access to millions of children is going to have some pretty unjustifiable faults. Roblox has plenty.
It is definitely worth reading through the parent’s guide before deciding whether or not you should allow your children to install the app on any device. If parents or legal guardians do choose to give their children access to the game, we recommend always making sure all the recommended safety features are enabled, the chat is turned off, and the child is under constant supervision while they play.