December 17, 2018

Parents’ Guide: Roblox

Children today have more video games available to play than ever before. With so many different gaming consoles and variety of games, it is incumbent that parents are informed about the types of content their child may be exposed to. Today, we will look specifically at Roblox, helping you understand the game that young children everywhere are obsessed with.

What is Roblox?

Roblox was developed in 2005 by Roblox Corporation. As of September 2018, the game has 70 million monthly users. The game can be played on three main platforms: the Xbox One, online with either a PC or Apple computer, or on a mobile device through an app bought on either the Apple or Google Play store.  Last year, kids under 13 played 51.5 million hours total of Roblox in just one month, making it the top game for that age demographic. Millions of young children actively play the game, perhaps making Roblox in particular a target for sexual exploitation.

The purpose of Roblox is to both play and create a player’s own worlds with the help of other players..These worlds vary depending on the experience wanted, with popular games to choose from like Natural Disaster Survival, Work at a Pizza Place, Murder Mystery 2, High School Experience, and many others.

As mentioned, there are many popular Roblox games to play. These games are sometimes the creations of other gamers, but they also are the creations of Roblox programmers who are actively moderating the worlds to ensure that no sexually explicit or overly violent material is created within it. While in these worlds, there is a chat option to interact with other players which is useful for communication and game play. Parental controls can be set up to restrict or disable the chat function, though it can be argued that chatting in these worlds is valuable. Roblox monitors these chats as well.

In creation mode, a player sticks strictly to creating and making new worlds of their own. For creating things, Roblox uses popular programming systems which players can practice their computer programming on, which is another reason for the game’s popularity. In this creation mode, players make their own games customizable to the experience that they want. They don’t interact and communicate with other players, and all they do is create their own game.

Some Users Exposed to Inappropriate Content

However, it is not 100% possible to monitor and ensure that all explicit material is kept away from Roblox players. One mother gained fame for telling an experience she had on Facebook. The experience occurred to her 7-year-old daughter on Roblox, even after she had adjusted the security settings to be on maximum security:

“While laying in bed with my daughter this morning, I was reading aloud to her from one of my favorite childhood chapter books. At the same time, she was playing her favorite game Roblox on her iPad while listening to the story. All of a sudden, she stopped me from reading and showed me her screen.

At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My sweet and innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND by two males. A female observer approached them and proceeded to jump on her body at the end of the act. Then the 3 characters ran away, leaving my daughter’s avatar laying on her face in the middle of the playground.

Words cannot describe the shock, disgust, and guilt that I am feeling right now, but I’m trying to put those feelings aside so I can get this warning out to others as soon as possible. Thankfully, I was able to take screenshots of what I was witnessing so people will realize just how horrific this experience was… Although I was immediately able to shield my daughter from seeing the entire interaction, I am shuddering to think of what kind of damage this image could have on her psyche, as well as any other child that could potentially be exposed to this.”

This mother’s experience is not a one-time occurrence by any means; in the last few years, there have been countless stories of parents finding everything from strangers proposing sexual acts to their child’s avatars, party rooms in popular inner worlds where players are simulating sexual acts, having their child gang-raped by other stranger’s avatars like the mom’s story above, sex rooms within some of the worlds, etc. Roblox is said to have moderators who monitor the game 24 hours, making it more alarming when sexual material still manages to get inside the game.

Roblox’s Response

When reported to about these sexually explicit occurrences, users say that Roblox does a fairly good job at responding and catching the hackers who manipulate the game in this way. The mom from the above story says that Roblox engineers worked to tighten their platform, hoping that something horrific like had happened to her daughter would never happen again. She tells in a later Facebook post about her interactions with the Roblox CEO’s and their action and response to this action, and that they said: “They have assured me that safety and security is the number one priority of Roblox and that their company will always take responsibility in doing everything possible to prevent and rectify user violations of conduct.”

This stance on safety for players is seen by the high level of monitoring Roblox has. Within the game, there are parental controls which can filter the content played and seen, filter the in-game chatting option, and regulate the friend option for parents to monitor who their child is friending and interacting with in the game. There is also an in-game flagging option for players or their parents to immediately report other players who they think are out of control or are crossing boundaries in gameplay.

They even have specific rules to follow for players under 13, automatically placing them on a restricted chat function which only allows them to chat with other players they have accepted as friends. It can also be noted that while searching for leads on any sexually explicit material on the popular website Reddit, many users applauded Roblox for the changes they have been making for the game to be more child-friendly and ensuring that children are not attacked or messaged by creepy users. Roblox is doing their job to try and ensure that players are kept safe, and many parents who have had negative interactions on the game blame game hackers and not the company of Roblox for exposing their children to explicit material.

Conclusion

Most of the world of Roblox is safe and kid-friendly, and developers are doing their job to monitor and keep it that way. However, as is the case with most things that are over-monitored, hackers will do their part to make the game less kid friendly merely because they can.

This is not a serious problem, but one to be especially aware of if your child enjoys playing Roblox. We at NCOSE encourage you to regularly talk with your children about what they are seeing online, who they are interacting with in their games, and that they know the dangers that are out there on seemingly friendly games.

Emily Hale

Intern

Emily Hale is a generalist intern here at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation. She is currently earning her bachelor’s degree in Sociology from Brigham Young University, with a double minor in Women’s Studies and Family Life. Before coming to NCOSE, Emily has conducted research on women’s exploitation, and is very passionate about providing information to the public on the harms of pornography and how to best engage the public to be both informed and active in these issues. She has interned at several social work professions, doing her part to help protect the integrity of families and children in harmful situations. She enjoys reading, music, fighting for social issues, and video games-something she has been able to expound upon as an intern. Emily has enjoyed the research she has done with NCOSE on the issues she is passionate about and hopes to pursue a graduate degree in her future.

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