The other day I posted about how much time should kids spend on a phone or another electronic device. In that post I talked about a popular online game called Roblox, which is a large, user-generated online gaming platform. What’s that mean? According to the site, there are more than 15 million games created by users and that Roblox is #1 gaming site for kids and teens. My kids love to play it either on their own or with their friends and there are a ton of different games they want to play. However, as one dad found, this online kids game allows pedophiles to have easy access to your kids.
You see, Roblox is played by millions of people around the world and while the game strives to “protect our players’ safety by proactively filtering inappropriate content and acting against anyone who is in violation of our Rules of Conduct.” This online kids game allows users to chat, and you can report inappropriate behavior and block other users. However, kids playing the game might not always understand how to block people or what that means. While Roblox appears to take the safety of it’s users seriously, there are times when the online kids game allows pedophiles to contact the children playing the game, as one father found out.
Iain Morrison was shocked to see messages sent to his eight-year-old son from an online predator through Roblox. He wants the chat function to be removed from the site and the game as it allows complete stranger to message children directly.
Morrison tried out the game after reading an article online that left him concerned about the game’s content and finding out that his kids played the game. The father of two says that within 15 minutes of playing the game he was shown sexual positions and was told he was “sexy” and “cute,” according to The Sun.
He said it didn’t take long for him to be “propositioned” once he began playing the game. The anonymous users he encountered wasted little time asking him his age and gender. In game, Morrison was then asked to follow the users to their virtual house, and then their bedroom, where they began so make sexual movements.
“It was sickening reading all the comments pop up,” Morrison said. “My kids were completely oblivious as to what the words and stuff meant.”
Morrison deleted the app from his kids’ iPad and encouraged others to do likewise in a Facebook post.
“It’s full of f**king paedophiles if you ask me it’s completely messed up its turned my guts, anyways it’s deleted off their computers forever and I’d highly recommend you check your kids to see if they have it and get rid of it,” he cautioned other parents.
The post was shared hundreds of times and other parents share similar stories about this game.
While I haven’t seen this kind of behavior when my kids are playing the game I have seen the occasional text chat scroll across the screen. I haven’t seen any of the kinds of messages that Morrison and others describe pop up. I have talked with my kids about the game to make sure they’re not chatting with anyone while playing it.
A Roblox spokesman said the safety of its community was a top priority and they’re constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures. The game does include chat filtering with a system that finds and flags inappropriate language.
“We continually fine tune this software to detect and block new and creative ways to message inappropriately,” the game’s spokesman said.
The site also has optional friend filtering, and any accounts for users that are less than 13 years old are set to only communicate with friends. The spokesman added that the system is all backed by a moderator network that uses an in-house team to review every image, audio, and video file that is uploaded to Roblox’s site or games. Suggestions for improving this system can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Knowing that there are people out there that might want to do harm to my kids, I’m always nervous about the kinds of interactions they might have in the digital realm. I’ll be watching Roblox more closely for now to make sure they aren’t getting exposed to this kind of messaging in the game.
Have you and your kids had a bad experience with Roblox or similar games? What kinds of limitations do you put on your kids’ online activities?