Keeping up with the latest in online gaming can be a multi-level challenge for parents - especially when what's ‘cool’ seems to change at the speed of a mouse-click. So on that note, let’s talk about Roblox.
Written by Cyber Expert:
Roblox is a vast online game where kids can create and interact through immersive 3D worlds. Players create an avatar (game character) that they can style and use to explore an ever evolving selection of user-created worlds and games.
Roblox can be played on mobile and PC devices. While the game is technically ‘free’ to play, the platform is heavy on advertising and players are encouraged to purchase Robux (in-game currency) used to buy avatar outfits, accessories, virtual goods, and content among other things. The objective of the game depends on the world that players choose to enter into, but it can range from fashion shows, to escaping a killer pig, or even caring for a virtual pet. Users also have the ability to build their own structures and worlds but again, this function is heavy on up-sells and prompts to purchase.
Roblox is an interactive game and users have the ability to communicate with other players in each world through a written chat. Age-based restrictions apply to what can be shared through the communal chat (for example, attempts to swear or share private personal information are hashed out), however, there is no differentiation between certain players ability to communicate- meaning if chat is enabled, young children are able to chat with all other players in the world (including teens and adults). When players enter a virtual world, they can view a list of other players who are present and send them friend requests, which can result in children connecting with strangers. Once friends, players also have the ability to send private messages to each other if enabled.
The open chat style communication and the ability to connect with strangers is not ideal for young players, despite the safety features that place boundaries around what can/can’t be shared. Placing restrictions around who your child can communicate with is a multi-step process and can be tricky, BUT it is a very necessary step for children playing this game. See instructions below.
Roblox hosts a vast array of user-generated content and while much of it is child friendly, there are some worlds/games that may be frightening or inappropriate for young audiences. Games featuring weapons and blood are easily located and despite the cartoonish block style graphics, may be distressing for young players.
Roblox has previously had incidents involving sexually explicit content having been incorporated in virtual worlds or sexual acts perpetrated by players. This content breaches the game’s community guidelines and the platform does have processes in place to prevent it BUT as history tells, this is no guarantee.
As mentioned, the game is heavy on consumerism and advertisements for in-app purchases. Parents beware.
There are a number of unkind behaviours that are often perpetrated through this game. Most notably, the discrepancy between players who are allowed to spend big in-game, and those who are not, can result in teasing and pressure to spend more. Name calling (within the restraints of the chat filters) and exclusion do come up relatively frequently. Finally, children are prone to sharing passwords, which often results in accounts being hacked and in-game creations ransacked and destroyed. Parents- DO NOT link your credit card details to your children’s online game accounts...it can end very badly.
If children are making full use of the in-game communication features, then our cyber experts do not recommend Roblox for children under the age of 13. However, if parents are making use of the in-platform safety controls, restricting who their child can communicate and connect with, and maintaining a high level of supervision, then the game can be appropriate for younger players (11+).
Set up the game account for your child using a parent’s email address. When creating an account by default, many of the safety features will not be enabled, which can leave children exposed if they are left to create their own account. Ensure you use your child’s birth date when prompted during the signup process, this will ensure that the appropriate level of chat filtering is applied to the account (younger players are more restricted with what they can share in-game).
Ensure privacy settings are turned on to the maximum. Parents can restrict a child’s ability to chat in-game, add friends, and send/receive private messages. Account restrictions can also be set to limit what games children can play. Be mindful that if you are allowing your child to add and chat to friends they will be able to chat to anyone they add to their friends list if messaging is turned on. Be very clear on who they are allowed to friend and maintain supervision over their friends list. Parents can also enable a four digit pass code that locks account settings, meaning that no changes to privacy settings can be implemented without this code. Instructions on using privacy and safety features are available here.
Perhaps most importantly, supervise and make online game play a regular talking point in your home! Some tips to help you keep an eye on your child’s Roblox activity can be found here. You’re welcome!