Is the Roblox gaming app safe for kids?
A complete app review for parents.
The recent stories coming from parents whose kids use Roblox are not good. Sexual propositions. Simulated gang rape. Sex rooms (here’s a link to a recent news story, but be warned, it’s graphic and may be considered offensive). Being dragged behind a building and killed.
There’s so much potential in this platform, which encourages creativity, coding, and fun with other gamers. But, like most digital environments, humans find a way to distort good things. Parents and caring adults can read about all of the game’s risks below.
What is the Roblox app?
Summary Description: The Roblox app is the new Minecraft. Players create their own mini-games that resemble the block worlds you might recognize in Minecraft. These games are categorized and can be searched. Kids can learn to code using the Lua programming language in order to create their own games in the Roblox Studio.
APP Store rating: 12+ for infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence, infrequent/mild realistic violence (NOTABLE absence of anything sexual mentioned in the app store rating, which is egregious).
What do parents need to know about ROBLOX?
Porn and sexualized content are difficult to prevent. In January 2018, there was a widely-circulated story about a 6-year-old discovering a “sex room” game. Additionally, Roblox developers can code what are referred to as “particles” into avatars (a game’s characters), which can be made to emit floating, pornographic pictures and music with explicit content.
Roblox is no different than any online environment that allows human beings to upload their own stuff. That “stuff” will always include sexualized content. Reviewers from Common Sense Media have reported very similar experiences. Although
Related post: Common Sense Media Ultimate Guide to Roblox
Therefore, the app’s 12+ rating seems inaccurate. There is a notable absence of any reference to sexualized content in the App Store description of the Roblox App. One could classify some of the avatars as extremely suggestive, if not borderline pornographic. Consider this story from a star Rugby player from England who pretended to be his 8-year-old son and was shocked at what happened next:
He said from the outside the game looked fine, but when he went into a room with a pool he was immediately “propositioned”. “They said ‘hi’ so I said ‘hi’ and they asked if I was a boy or girl and my age so I said I was an eight-year-old boy,” he says. “They asked me to follow them to their house, then into the bedroom and asked me to lay down on top of them and then they started with the sexual movements. They said ‘you look cute’ and ‘you look sexy’. It was sickening reading all the comments pop up. My kids were completely oblivious as to what the words and stuff meant.”
Kids can actually use Roblox Studio to code their own game. As mentioned above, using the Lua coding language, kids can build their own mini-games, which for a kid aspiring to create games as an adult, this might be a good place to practice (with supervision).
There’s an in-game chat feature. In the above image, you can see the “CHAT” icon on the bottom. For iOS and Android devices, if you click on “MORE” in the lower right corner, and then “My Settings,” parents can set a 4-digit code that blocks the chat feature (for the PC version, just click on the Settings icon; the Xbox version is strict and doesn’t allow chat). Great!
Also, if when setting up the account a child is <13, and the chat feature is left on, then Roblox applies chat filtering by inserting #### for known swear words. Although, kids are pretty savvy at evading these by typing things like:
Additionally, even with all of the pins and restrictions set, anyone can send anyone a friend request, which happens regularly during game play. Some are spam driven while other are real humans.
Therefore, sexual predators love this app. “Wherever the kids are, that’s where the sexual predators are, too.” This is a reality of the digital age. Because this app is predominantly used by kids ages 8-12, this is going to create an automatic attraction to sexual predators. The Musical.ly app suffers from the same attraction because predators know that very vulnerable elementary children are the primary users.
What are “ODers” in Roblox? Here’s an explanation from the Common Sense Media Ultimate Guide for Roblox referenced above:
“OD” stands for “online dater.” These are folks who join social networks, including gaming sites like Roblox, to find romantic partners. Games on Roblox can even be designed expressly for ODers. Roblox doesn’t explicitly forbid ODers, and ODers aren’t necessarily preying on kids. (They may be solely looking for other ODers.) Roblox‘s monitors look out for inappropriate conversations and content. And its community rules prohibit chat that’s sexual in nature.
Related PYE post: Identifying Tricky People – Stranger Danger in the Digital Age
Parental controls are better than average in this app. The Cyber Safety Lady provides this amazing list of parental control steps:
- Make sure your young child has an under 13 yrs. account. Under 13 accounts have some filters and restrictions already set.
- Make sure your child does not use a real name to sign up, and has a long and secure password that they know not to share with anyone other than you.
- Since your child can set up an adult or over 13+ account on the same device, make sure your child only has one account with the correct age.
- If your child has not set their age to the correct setting you can change their age back to under 13+ with your consent. See Here;
- Log into the game via the app or website and then go to settings/account info and provide your parent email address. Make sure your child doesn’t have access to your email account.
- When you have received an email from Roblox to verify your email, follow the link to set a 4 digit PIN that your child cannot guess also in settings/security. This prevents your child changing the restrictions.
- Enable Account Restrictions in Settings/Security.
- For extra security set 2 Step Verification to prevent your child’s account from being hacked.
- Whilst in settings go to the privacy settings and select which parental controls you wish your child’s account to have.
- Also turn off notifications in settings, if your child isn’t going to be playing with friends online for extra security
- Make sure your child’s social media accounts are not listed in the settings/Account info. If they are, make them private or remove them.
- Also make sure your child doesn’t reveal personal information in settings/Account Info.
But, circumvention is so easy, since Roblox allows new account creation so that kids can just create a new account.
Roblox does have several ways to see the history for certain account activities. When logged into Roblox through a browser (not through the app), you can view the following histories:
Creations such as games, items, sounds, ads…etc (Develop)
Private message history (Messages)
Friends and Followers (Friends)
Virtual item purchase and trade history (Trade)
When compared to other gaming platforms, these features are actually quite good.
So, in summary, with the pin set and a <13 year-old birthday locked in, here’s what the Roblox experience will look like:
- No messaging or in-game chats.
- For games that are tagged accurately, a child <13 can’t enter violent or sexualized games.
- Your child will still receive random friend requests. Check the requests tab and “Ignore” them
- Your child will still encounter human beings with horrible words and/or intent, but since chat is shut down, there’s no communicating with him/her.
There are in-app purchases in Roblox. Beware that kids might be tempted to buy additional gaming features if given the opportunity. Bling matters!
Reporting abuse looks straightforward. Blocking another player or illegal content is fairly simple by clicking this article from Roblox.
Bottom Line: Is Roblox safe for your kids?
Roblox feels more like a 14+ app. There are parental controls but since you just can’t control all of the other humans interacting with your child, it remains slightly risky.
We’d also strongly encourage parents to always be supervising a child using this app. Sit down and play it with them. Stay involved. Very involved. Our hope is that at some point, there would be a solo, “private” way to play Roblox, similar to Minecraft, without interaction with other gamers.