A Mainstream Contributor To Sexual Exploitation

Roblox treats child protection like a game

Among the avatars, blocks, and buildings, kids are exposed to predators and inappropriate content.

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If you have a child, they or their friends are likely playing Roblox. Yet while the wildly popular platform allows kids to actualize and enact their dreams on screen, rampant dangers have trapped countless kids into real life nightmares. 

Like the 11-year old New Jersey girl who was kidnapped by a predator who played video games with her on Roblox, a platform her parents understandably assumed was safe.

Or the 13-year-old Utah boy who also fell victim to an abuser on Roblox who kidnapped and sexually assaulted him before the authorities intervened and thankfully brought him home.

Tragically, these are not isolated incidents. Since Roblox inception, countless children have been sexually abused and exploited by predators they met on Roblox. 

Children are also exposed to highly sexualized content and themes – children’s avatars have been raped, “condo” games revolve around sex (interactive pornography), and kids can enter virtual “strip clubs.” These are prime areas for grooming that also normalize this type of activity to children. While these incidences happen in the virtual world, the negative effects on kids are devastatingly real. 

How is it possible that a $2.8 billion platform with children ages 12 and under comprising the largest demographic (and therefore a substantial percentage of revenue) has not embraced common sense child protection measures? Roblox should be leading the industry in the highest safety standards – but instead, it’s leaving young users at grave risk on a platform many parents and kids themselves reasonably believe will be a safe space. 

Yet instead of making any substantive changes after being placed on the 2023 Dirty Dozen List, Roblox launched a new product that provides predators with a new way to connect with kids and doubled down on efforts to entice more adults onto the platform by expanding into online dating (including for 17-year-old-kids who are likely still in high-school!). 

Roblox must make the platform safe by default and design, rather than continuously pushing more of the burden onto parents – and young children themselves – to try to monitor a platform with more than 50 million games

Until basic child protection standards are met, Roblox remains too high risk for kids. 

Review the proof we’ve collected, read our recommendations for improvement, and see our notification letter to Roblox for more details.

Read our letter to Roblox here.

Our Requests for Improvement

Proof

Evidence of Exploitation

WARNING: Any pornographic images have been blurred, but are still suggestive. There may also be graphic text descriptions shown in these sections. POSSIBLE TRIGGER.

Child sexual abuse and grooming have long been a threat on Roblox. A simple Google search easily yields results about grooming and exploitation occurring on the platform. The following are just a few news stories about predatory adults accessing children through Roblox: 

  • In October 2023, an 11-year-old girl from New Jersey was kidnapped by a man she played video games with on Roblox. 
  • In June 2023, a minor “under 16” was sexually abused in California by a 21-year man she met on Roblox. 
  • In April 2023, a 13-year-old boy from Utah met a predator on Roblox, was groomed publicly on Twitter, then kidnapped and sexually assaulted before being rescued. 
  • 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 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 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. 
  • In 2021, a 9-year-old boy in Spokane was subjected to threats of being shot by a predator until the boy sent dozens of nude photos and videos, and then connected the stranger to other children on Roblox. 
  • In 2021, an 11-year-old girl in California went missing and was found with her abuser, who used Roblox to groom and lure her to his friends’ apartment, where he attempted to commit suicide when police arrived to rescue the girl. 
  • In 2021, a 12-year-old boy in Texas was solicited by a 23-year-old man on Roblox. The man was charged with indecent solicitation of a child, violation of sex offender registry, and grooming. 
  • In 2019, an 18-year-old man was charged with 26 counts of child pornography after soliciting nude images from children ages 10 to 12 on Roblox. 
  • In 2017, a 12-year-old boy in New Jersey was groomed by a 56-year-old Virginia man on Roblox. 

The Case of S.U.

S.U.’s childhood was supposed to be filled with innocent fun, but instead, it was marred by the heinous actions of predators lurking on the Roblox platform. Despite her mother’s watchful eye, 11-year-old S.U. was targeted by not one, but two adult men who manipulated, exploited, and abused her through the game. These predators used Roblox as a hunting ground for vulnerable children, and the company did nothing to stop them. 

The two predators targeting S.U. may have been the most overt abusers, but S.U. was bombarded with sexual advances from other adult players too. Roblox’s supposed monitoring tools for inappropriate, dangerous behavior seem to only apply to swearing and fighting, not the rampant sexual predation happening on your watch. And when S.U. tried to reach out for help, she found none. 

The toll of this abuse on S.U. is immeasurable. It drove her to attempt suicide twice. She has been stripped of her childhood and her mental health continues to suffer. Her mother struggles every day to get her daughter the help she needs, all while fighting for justice against the company that failed to protect her daughter. 

S.U.’s story is a heartbreaking reminder that we cannot let companies like Roblox prioritize profits over the safety of our children. We must demand accountability and change to ensure that no child suffers like S.U. did. 

The Case of Utah Boy, Age 13 

At the tender age of 13, a Utah boy was lured into a trap on Roblox, an app that his parents trusted to be safe for their child. But behind the facade of child-friendly graphics and colorful characters, a predator was lurking, preying on vulnerable children like him. With cunning tactics and false promises, the abuser persuaded him to migrate to other apps, including Discord and Twitter, where the grooming continued to take place in the shadows. 

Then came the unthinkable. One day, the boy was suddenly snatched away and taken across state lines before the authorities finally intervened. The trauma that he and his family have been forced to endure is nothing short of a living nightmare. Their once happy home has been shattered into a million pieces, and the boy’s life will never be the same again. 

This tragedy could have been avoided if Roblox had taken a stronger stance against the presence of adult predators on its platform. While the company may tout its commitment to safety, these bold statements have proven hollow in the face of frequent incidents of abuse. It’s past time for Roblox to step up and protect the innocent children who use its platform before another tragedy like this one occurs.

Roblox’s policies prohibit sexualized themes and activities, however, there are hundreds of games with sexually explicit themes, including strip clubs, dance clubs, “Condo Experiences,” and more. Child accounts by default have access to all of these experiences. (This article in Rolling Stone addresses the “virtual strip clubs” on Roblox.) 

Many youth have reported innocently visiting “condo experiences” only to be encouraged to visit 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. NCOSE researchers created multiple accounts on Roblox and were easily exposed to age-inappropriate content, as shown in the screenshots below.

10-year-old boy account:

 

11-year-old girl account:

Within 45 minutes, our research encountered the following scenarios: 

  • In “Boys and Girls sleepover” walked in on people simulating sex and walking around in thongs, chat offering “I’m single” “let’s play spin the bottle” “let’s all get to bed.” 
  • In “The Hood” was “murdered” in various ways (like shot in the head) and then stomped on and kicked (avatar was frozen when dead, so couldn’t move). Body was dropped in an ally. Saw what looked like prostitution in the streets (avatars dressed in stereotypical prostitution dress, other avatars – mostly male-looking – would bring what looked like “gifts” and simulate sex acts). The “soundtrack” was gun shots and people being punched. 
  • “Get Eaten by a Neko Girl” had various houses with sexually dressed “guards” (didn’t have enough “money” to get in). Neko girl is an anime girl that looks like a cat – almost always super sexualized 
  • In “Critters Roleplay” was humped by a character in a bunny costume 
  • In “Squid Game” based on the horrifying show was trapped in a room with hooded guards with guns. 

     

Children of any age are allowed to create accounts; no email and no parental permission is required. By default, Roblox sets young child accounts to:

  • allow access to 13+ experiences;
  • allow in-game chatting between young children and everyone else; 
  • allow anyone to “friend” young child accounts (parents cannot even disable this if they wanted to) 


Default settings for 11-year-old account created February, 2024:

It is unacceptable that even with all of the documented harms, Roblox still does not automatically default settings for children to the safest measures. 

The “parental controls” Roblox does offer are inadequate. They don’t offer protection against some of the most basic risks (allowing parents to blacklist or whitelist specific games or stopping adult strangers from friending kids) and where they do offer some solutions, they are not comprehensive. Instead, Roblox’s parental controls create a false sense of security for parents who trust it. For example, many parents believe they are disabling chatting, but are not told that it only stops some forms of chatting and that adults can still communicate with kids through certain games. Likewise, parents are not told that anyone can “friend” their child when they set chatting to be only with friends.

Roblox users and their parents deserve transparency and accountability. We need to know the truth to keep kids safe. 

Roblox must provide effective parental controls. The following are some of the flaws with Roblox’s current tools: 

  1. Inadequate Filtering: The platform’s filtering system is not always effective at blocking inappropriate content, including sexual content and violence. This means that children can still be exposed to harmful material despite parental controls being in place. Many games are marked as “all ages” when they include mature and sexualized themes. 
  2. Limited Customization: While parents can customize some aspects of their child’s account, such as restricting most ways to chat, they cannot customize the filtering system or create their own list of blocked words or games. Additionally, parents cannot stop strangers from requesting to be friends with children. 
  3. Limited Visibility: Roblox’s parental controls do not give parents full visibility into their child’s activity on the platform. For example, parents cannot see the content of private messages sent between their child and another user. 
  4. Lack of Age Verification: Roblox does not verify the age of its users, making it easier for underage children to access the platform and potentially harmful content, and for adult users to lie about their ages and gain easier access to youth users. When a child does join the game, there are no prompts requesting parental permission or encouraging the kids or parents to utilize the parental controls. 
  5. Insufficient Guidance: Roblox’s parental controls do not provide sufficient guidance to parents on how to effectively monitor their child’s activity and keep them safe while using the platform. 
  6. Lack of Transparency: Many parents trust when Roblox says parental controls will disable chats or filter inappropriate content. Roblox owes it to parents to explain where its tools fall short and to clarify common work-arounds used to continue chatting (using signs for example) or exposing kids to dangerous material. 
  7. Complicated to Set Up: Parents have to go to multiple places within the app to restrict access to certain content and who has access to their children. It is not easy to find instructions for parental controls, and those that are on Roblox website are not simple to follow and do not explain where the tools fall short. 

It is not enough to rely on parents to monitor their children’s activity on the platform when Roblox has a duty to implement strong and effective measures to prevent these heinous crimes.

Urgent Update on Roblox and Online Safety from Safe on Social (October 2023) 

Safe on Social – based in Australia, but working globally – issued an urgent safety warning about children as young as 3–6 increasingly interacting with strangers on Roblox. They also noted cases of children being asked to role-play and offers of free in-game currency in exchange for inappropriate interactions.  

Safe on Social also reports that:  

Some of the content has become a sex fetish – if you search “Roblox Sex” online, you will get millions of links to adult entertainment websites where Roblox videos have been uploaded. I am very concerned that some of these “Roblox Sex” videos may be children’s avatars engaged in these acts – there is no way to tell. Children have reported what is nothing short of in-game sexual assault to me on more than one occasion, which has been reported to the police. As far as we know, only one major Adult Entertainment company has made the word Roblox and all of the ways it may be written (R.O.B.L.O.X for example to circumvent security) completely unsearchable on their sites. 

NCOSE researchers are hearing increasing reports of Roblox currency “Robux” being used to entice children into performing sexual acts both on and off Roblox. While this is not something NCOSE has had the capacity to investigate in-depth (nor has it yet been widely examined among child safety experts) we will be doing so more closely throughout 2024 and will be encouraging law enforcement and cyber security specialists to be doing the same. 

Stanford Internet Observatory report on Addressing Child Exploitation on Federated Social Media posted this screenshot showing the type of currency children are posting for their own, self-generated CSAM (page 8). 

From an article Is Roblox safe? Safety experts don’t think so: 

Kirra Pendergast, the founder of the Safe on Social group that made the submission, said Roblox is being used as a first point of contact for predators. 

She said “hundreds and hundreds” of children tell her every week via online safety programs at Australian schools that they’re being approached by strangers on Roblox. 

The submission says children are often asked to take part in roleplaying games or be the stranger’s boyfriend or girlfriend. Moving the conversation to applications such as TikTok or Snapchat, where private messaging is available, has also been raised. 

Pendergast said that some users were offering children money to perform sexual acts. This was done through the in-game ‘Robux’ currency. 

This could include being paid Robux to play a role-playing game, such as being ‘adopted’ or lying down on top of another avatar. 

She said young children are subject to nude or semi-nude avatars while playing role-playing games in Roblox. They could also be exposed to sexual acts or simulated sex between avatars. 

Fast Facts

Apple App Store rating: 12+; Google Play Store rating: T; Common Sense Media: 13+ 

Roblox has no age restrictions or age verification, and new accounts are defaulted to be able to access every ‘experience’

Kids 16 and under make up 60% of Roblox demographic (22% are under age 9) 

Role-playing games on Roblox are growing in popularity – and predators are using them to target kids  

Similar to Roblox

Among Us | Fortnite | Minecraft

These are all extremely popular games with children that have also come under fire for sexual predators accessing children and kids being exposed to harmful content. Learn more about these platforms and how to turn on available parental controls at Protect Young Eyes.

Resources

Stay up-to-date with the latest news and additional resources

Mercury News: Roblox fails to protect child gamers from predators, sexual content, lawsuit claims

Defend Young Minds: Pedophiles Hunt Kids in Popular Gaming Apps: Roblox, Minecraft, & Fortnite

Dexerto: Roblox under fire after adding controversial voice call feature

NBC News: A 13-year-old boy was groomed publicly on Twitter and kidnapped, despite numerous chances to stop it

NBC New York: NJ girl kidnapped by man she met playing online video games including Roblox

BBC: Roblox - The children's game with a sex problem

Care: Parents and safety experts sound the alarm about potential predators on Roblox

The Verge: Anti-social media lawsuits are coming for Roblox and Discord

Recommended Resources

Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, Nobody

Who’s Responsible for Protecting Kids Online…and How? This panel of digital safety experts will elevate some of the current and emerging digital dangers facing youth.

CyberFareedah gives parents some safety advice for Roblox content in this quick, informative video.

Ask Titania: Is Roblox Safe for My Child?

In this incredibly informative blog from Bark, Titania answers an important question from a parent about Roblox.

Turn on Roblox Parental Controls

Please understand that these controls fall short in many ways, but they will help to significantly reduce the access of strangers to your youth and their exposure to dangerous content.

Roblox App Review

Protect Young Eyes has created an excellent overview of the Roblox platform – including a guide to setting up parental controls.

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