The other day, NCOSE received the following testimony from a supporter:
My grandson used to play Pokémon with me. That was before he got into Roblox at age nine.
A few weeks into him playing Roblox, my grandson started to change drastically. He didn’t like Pokémon anymore and didn’t want to hike with me when I came to his parents’ house. It was so strange.
The day I read Roblox was on the Dirty Dozen List I called my grandson’s mom and said, “Hey, you need to get your kid off this game—it’s on the Dirty Dozen List.” And she said the most heartbreaking thing I ever heard: “He is already off Roblox because I caught him playing a rape game.”
I was absolutely terrified. My grandson, whom I loved—whom I thought was innocent and pure—was playing a rape game.
I cried in bed for several hours.
This grandfather’s heartbreaking story is just one example of the harms that have come to children while playing Roblox. Despite the fact that children under 13 comprise the largest demographic of users, the company fails to adequately prioritize child protection. Instead, they set default settings for underage accounts which leave children exposed to harmful content and sexual predators.
Sexual Activities and Sexual Violence Within Roblox Experiences
Although Roblox’s policies prohibit such activities, the platform contains hundreds of games—or, as Roblox calls them, “experiences”—with sexually explicit themes, and sometimes themes of sexual violence.
In one horrific example, a mother who was testing Roblox for her young children reported finding games that had been manually selected by Roblox for 5-8 year olds, which seem designed to lead to sexual assault. The mother’s character was forced onto her back by slipping and getting stuck in a puddle, and in less than a minute she was swarmed by other characters who simulated gang-raping her.
Roblox was recently named a top five platform for child exposure to inappropriate sexual content, according to a Parents Together report based on surveys with 1,000 parents. “Condo experiences” (i.e. sex games) have been the topic of much discussion in the news and one can easily find articles recommending the “Top 10” Roblox condo experiences—all on a platform highly frequented by young children.
Many youth have reported curiously visiting “condo experiences” only to be encouraged to enter someone’s “home,” go into the “bedroom,” and then engage in virtual sexual acts. Other children innocently wander around the games and stumble on this activity.
It is no surprise that this would happen considering that Roblox defaults child accounts to have access to all experiences, including the sexually explicit and sexually violent ones.
To test how easy it was for children to encounter this content, NCOSE researchers created a 10-year-old account on Roblox. We instantly had access to all experiences and were easily exposed to inappropriate content, as shown in the screenshots below.
Child Sexual Abuse and Grooming of Children on Roblox
Worse still, many children have been sexually exploited by predators on the Roblox platform.
Take the tragic case of S.U., a girl who is currently being represented in a lawsuit against Roblox.
Despite her mother’s watchful eye, S.U. was targeted by not one, but two adult men who manipulated, exploited, and abused her through the platform. These predators used Roblox as a hunting ground for vulnerable children, and the company did nothing to stop them.
The toll of this abuse on S.U. is immeasurable. It drove her to attempt suicide twice.
And she is far from the only child who has experienced exploitation on Roblox. A simple Google search easily yields numerous other cases, just a few of which are outlined below:
- In March 2023, a 40-year-old California man was arrested after traveling across the country to sexually abuse a 14-year-old he met and groomed on Roblox.
- In April 2023, a 14-year-old girl from Ohio was sexually assaulted by a man she met on Roblox. The man posed as a 17-year-old on the platform and convinced the girl to send him nude images before picking her up from school and sexually assaulting her.
- In 2022, a thirteen-year-old girl in Topeka was rescued from a man she met on Roblox who was sex trafficking her.
- In 2022, an 8-year-old girl in North Carolina was targeted by an online predator on Roblox who asked her to send him “hot videos.” The girl’s mother said she had parental controls on all the devices her kids used.
- In 2022, a Florida man was arrested after kidnapping a 12-year-old boy he met on Roblox. The man’s charges included sexual battery of a child under 12, kidnapping of a child under 13, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and child abuse.
- In 2022, a 13-year-old boy was abducted from his home in Utah by a man he had been having inappropriate sexual conversations with on Roblox.
Despite case after case like these hitting news headlines, Roblox still allows adult strangers to direct message, chat, and “friend” children. These are the default settings when any child opens an account.
While parental controls do allow caregivers to restrict most ways to chat, there is no option to stop adult strangers from requesting to be friends with children (a basic, common-sense safety measure). Consequently, parents may set chatting to be only with friends, assuming that to be safe, without being aware of this loophole. Roblox also fails to explain to parents where its tools fall short and to clarify common work-arounds used to continue chatting (using signs for example).
Besides that, why is the burden on parents to figure out how to turn off dangerous settings for children? Dangerous settings simply should not be the default on child accounts.
Why Does Roblox Make Dangerous Settings the Default for Child Accounts?
To review, by default, Roblox sets child accounts to:
- allow access to all experiences, which can result in exposure to sexually explicit or even sexually violent experiences
- allow in-game chatting between young children and everyone else, including adult strangers
- allow adult strangers to “friend” young child accounts (parents cannot even disable this)
Given the many documented cases of children being exposed to harm through these dangerous settings, why has Roblox not changed them?
Considering Roblox’s incredibly young user-base, it is of paramount importance that the company place child protection at the forefront, making their platform safe by default and design—rather than continuously pushing more of the burden onto parents to try to monitor a platform with more than 40 million games.
And what about the children that don’t have the privilege of involved, informed, available parents—the children already at greater risk for sexual exploitation? Roblox is opening them up to a vast array of risks and leaving them to fend for themselves.