As if the universe had read my mind, this week I opened up my daughter’s school newsletter to discover that a child at our school had been “groomed” whilst playing Roblox using the chat function. This sort of thing is literally my worst fear. But do we all need to be worried about our children playing Roblox? And is Roblox safe for children?
Before we get onto whether Roblox is safe for children, I just briefly wanted to introduce what Roblox is for those who may not be fully aware.
What is Roblox?
Roblox is a global platform where millions of people gather together every day to imagine, create, and share experiences with each other in immersive, user-generated 3D worlds. The types of gameplay on Roblox are just as limitless as the imagination of the creators themselves.
All the online games you see on the platform have been built by members of the Roblox community for members of the Roblox community. Players can build the ultimate theme park, compete as a professional race car driver, star in a fashion show, become a superhero, or simply design a dream home and hang out with friends. Roblox is free to download and free to play on all modern smartphones, tablets, computers, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive.
Roblox has become somewhat of a sensation and it seems that every child I encounter is currently playing it. In the UK alone, there are around 1.5 million children playing Roblox, according to research firm Kids Insights. In the United States, three-fourths of all U.S. kids between 9 and 12 years old use Roblox. So you can see how incredibly popular it is.
What you may not know is that this type of social media app which has a chat function aimed at children but has a guide age of 13 which is the same as Facebook and Instagram.
Is Roblox safe for children?
Here I talk to Dr Amanda Gummer, founder of The Good Play Guide to get her advice and thoughts.
In your opinion, do you think Roblox is safe for children?
I would say that Roblox is as safe as anything else online with a social element. Any digital world that children share with adults is going to have its risks, the important thing is how we manage this. I like to compare this to road safety – if we never let our children cross the road, they won’t learn how to do it safely. We need to teach them how to be safe online just as we teach them how to cross the road.
What are the benefits of children playing Roblox?
Roblox has a wide range of games with some encouraging imaginative play and other skills such as team work. It also has a chat function so children can talk to friends, which has been all the more valuable over the last year. It lets players design their own games too, so may be a good introduction to game design and programming for children.
And the negatives?
Roblox features Robux which can be earned or bought with real money. Although you don’t have to spend money to play the games, children may feel pressured to buy in-game currency.
Also, as with any digital games, children risk missing out on other play opportunities if they spend all of their time on a screen, which are vital to learning and development. This is why it’s important to make sure they get a balanced play diet, with plenty of active and creative play.
Is Roblox addictive?
I think it can be addictive, partly because of the endless possibilities that it offers. There are so many different games to play and they are constantly being updated and added to, so they never wear out. There’s also the social element, as children are keen to do what their friends are doing, perhaps with some pressure to have the best character or be the best at a game.
How much guidance should children receive in playing Roblox?
I would recommend only letting children play Roblox in family areas, where they can be seen. This means that you can keep an eye on them and may also make them more aware of what they are doing.
It’s also important to warn children against potential safety concerns. For example, let them know that “if it’s too good to be true, then it probably is”. Encourage your child to think twice if someone offers a valuable item or free Robux, because it’s more than likely a scam. Remind them to only enter their login details on the official Roblox page and to never share these details with anyone.
How much is safety an issue on Roblox?
There are also no age restrictions, which means that children are playing with adults. This can put them at risk of being groomed or seeing inappropriate content. Roblox does have some safety features including a reporting system, chat filters, and parental controls in the settings section of the app. However, chat filters can often be tricked (e.g. using symbols instead of letters) and the reporting system only works if the developers respond to concerns.
What else do parents need to be aware of?
Scamming is reportedly quite widespread on Roblox, a common issue with online games such as this. This can include stealing login details or tricking players into handing over their in-game currency (Robux). Aside from the risk of malware and so on, this can be really upsetting for children, as they may have invested a lot of time and even real money into the game.
What advice would you give to parents whose children have just discovered the world of Roblox?
Agree boundaries before your child starts playing. It’s impossible for you to go through and check every game in the huge catalogue, so instead, discuss what games you do not want them playing. For example, you may agree that they aren’t allowed to play any games with shooting or weapons.
You may also want to agree on who they can talk to and add as friends. You may decide that they can only add people they know in real life, for instance, and choose to turn off the chat function for anyone who isn’t a friend (in the settings). Also consider how long you are happy for them to play for and how much money, if any, they are allowed to spend on the game.
If you are worried about Roblox, it may help to encourage your child to talk to you and show what games they are playing. This can help you understand what they like about it and encourages open communication, in case they do run into any problems in the game.
Anything else you’d like to add?
The best internet safety tool is education. It’s hard to predict what your child might come across on Roblox or elsewhere on the internet, so taking the time to talk to them about online safety is some of the best protection you can give them. It’s also key that your child feels they can talk to you if something online does worry them, so make sure they feel comfortable doing this by building trust and keeping up to date with what they are playing – you may even enjoy playing it too!
Additional advice from Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command
- Have an open and calm conversation about the consequenc-es and dangers of using social media and games apps.
- If children are below the age of 13 they should be supervised on the internet as they are too young to keep themselves safe online
- Know who they are talking to and which sites they are visit-ing.
- Review your child‘s security settings on their phone or de-vices and ensure that the location settings are turned off, that phone numbers are not shared on any website or with anyone they don’t know
- Some parents consider linking their phones to their child’s email accounts and also suggest no passwords are on the phones or these be shared with you.
- If your child becomes secretive or wants to hide the screen this is a cause for concern.
Additional resources on supporting children to keep them safe
Further advice and guidance on supporting children to help keep them safe online can be found at the following websites:
Comment on your thoughts about whether you feel Roblox is safe for children or send me a message on Instagram if you’d like to talk more.