Should you be concerned that your child is spending hours in this never-ending game?
Image source: Pixabay
What is Roblox?
Roblox is a popular online multiplayer game that combines gameplay and game creation. As it has no age restrictions, children of all ages can play (under 13s are allowed too). It has picked up in popularity during the pandemic, as it serves as a type of social entertainment for kids stuck at home.
There are two main features of the game: game creation and gameplay. In game creation mode, users can create their own worlds, build terrains, add any objects, and customise it to their heart’s content. They can publish the game for other people to pay, and serious creators can even make money from creating these games. The other feature is simply gameplay, where users can go into these creations and play through.
What is a Robux (R$)?
The game offers in-app purchases of the game’s currency, called Robux. Robux is used to purchase upgrades for avatars, such as unique accessories and clothing, or to buy special abilities to use in games. The cheapest package available is USD $4.99 for 400 Robux. Find out later in the article why Robux can make your child vulnerable online.
Image source: Roblox.com
Let’s Chat & Party!
The main enticing feature of the game is Chat & Party, a chatboard to communicate with all the other players during gameplay. Roblox has an in-built filtering system where users are not allowed to send personal details such as phone numbers or email addresses, or use profanity. Such words will be censored out and replaced with hashtag symbols instead. However, because there are no restrictions on age, young kids may unwittingly enter a chat with much older adults who are discussing mature themes who may not use profane words, but are being explicit in their language. Such conversation may stray quickly to sexual or violent in nature.
Why Roblox Might Be Dangerous For Your Child
The nature of online multiplayer games mean players can easily interact with each other, which means young vulnerable children need to be very aware of cyber dangers to navigate the game. While Roblox is COPPA compliant and has safety procedures in place to maintain a safe environment (such as chat filters and human monitoring), there are still many dangers lurking in the site that cannot be monitored. With a bit of “l33t” speak and creative slang, the game’s chat filters can be circumvented to allow for predators and groomers to find their targets easily. Such chat rooms also open up opportunities for cyberbullying and antisocial behaviour to take place. It’s not just the Chat & Party feature that’s dangerous; Newsweek reported a 6 year old child stumbling into a user-created game that was essentially an X-rated “sex room” where avatars were seen in obscene positions.
Want your kids to learn about digital safety? Ready, Get Set, Connect! is a comprehensive cybersafety book for children ages 8+, and is available for purchase here.
Image source: Roblox.com
A Mother’s Experience
At Cyberlite Books, we actively talk to industry leaders for news and to parents for their firsthand accounts of experiences with new games and apps. One mother in Australia shares her story:
“My daughter who’s 9 has been playing Roblox for a while, and has built a world to her own specification. She enjoys the creative process and was well thought-out and constructed to her own enjoyment. There was one morning recently when I was on a work call and left her alone to play on the game. We’ve played it together before and so I trust the game and her. Suddenly she came into my room looking really distressed and disturbed and asked me to delete the Roblox for her. She said she was getting ready to do her “makeup routine” in the house she built, when a player she’s never met before followed her into the bathroom. The player then asked her to undress and play together, then suggested sex. I’d chatted to her before about predatory behaviour, so she knew to come straight to me when she was feeling uneasy. But the damage was done - her wonderful world and positive space was violated.”
Phishing Scams: FREE ROBUX! CLICK HERE!
A common trap phishers like to use is to offer free ‘money’ or cheat codes for online games. With Roblox, the most common scam is to entice players with free Robux R$ so young kids without access to a credit card might feel even more attracted to clicking on these links. A simple Google search of the term “Robux R$” shows phish-y sites in the first page of results - it’s that easy to find. The danger of such phishing scams can lead your child to giving out personal information, credit card details, or have malware installed into the computer.
Screen capture of a Google search page by CyberliteBooks on Feb 24, 2021.
Cyberbullying and violence: “MIC UP”
In Roblox, the term “mic up” refers to moving off the platform to voice chat with other players in the group. Since the game doesn’t have a voice chat function, players are using apps like Discord to talk in real time. This is dangerous for susceptible children as 3rd party apps don’t have filters and no one is monitoring the content within the chat. These chats tend to be more violent and explicit, and cyberbullying and peer pressure are more pronounced. Furthermore, Roblox cannot be held responsible for anything that happens in a 3rd party app so you won’t be able to report the offenders.
Groomers and sex: “ODers”
Across online platforms are “ODers” and it’s no different with Roblox. “OD” stands for “online dater” and represents people who go to online games to find romantic partners. While “ODers” aren’t necessarily predators (they may well be ordinary people looking for other adult ODers), Roblox’s open platform leaves room for groomers to chat to your kids.
Should I still let my kid play Roblox? Safety and Privacy Tips
Yes, with the right safety settings and precautions in place. The majority of the safety issues with Roblox are in Chat & Party, and fortunately there are safety and privacy settings in Roblox that allows you to block any and all chat functions, and even restrict the types of games children under 13 can see.
Here's how to disable Roblox's chat function:
1. Log in to Roblox and go to Settings. 2. Click on the Privacy tab 3. Under the "Who can chat with me in app?", select "no one" 4. Save However, many traps still occur outside of the game’s chat, such as 3rd party voice apps and phishing scams. The most effective precaution you can take with your child is to educate them on cybersafety, and make sure they understand how to play online safely.