“Mom, Mom, Mom! Can I play Roblox? All my friends are playing it!”
If you have children living in your home, between the ages of 7-16, you may have heard the word “Roblox” at least once.
If not thousands of times, repeated with an urgent, insistent tone. And in this writer’s home, the question is accompanied by a little dance.
Good News Elk Grove!
Social distancing is being practiced by many local families to fight the spread of COVID-19!
However, this compliance and concern for the health and safety of others have led to many challenges for our local parents. Unfortunately, outside social activities such as scouting, team sports, and other clubs came to a sharp end. All this distance, however, is leading to chants of “I’m bored!” and “There is nothing to do!” to bounce off the walls in many local homes.
Yet our kids’ need to be socially active has not come to a sharp end though. MMORPGs have become the answer for many local homes to meet this need. Online gaming platforms, such as Roblox, are making gains during this time of pandemic-required social space.
Roblox Is Leading The Online Social Gaming Pack
Roblox alone saw a usage surge of 40% at the outset of the pandemic, with kids seeking out new online adventures to explore. At the time of this article’s publication, it’s estimated that Roblox has over 150 million monthly, active users. Also, it has an estimated financial worth of over $4 billion dollars.
One local Elk Grove mother shared this thought via our inbox. “I don’t want my kids to become socially isolated, or to lose touch with their friends, and Roblox helps them play together daily. I want to make sure they’re still having new social adventures, while not losing touch with friends, and maintaining a safe social distance from others.”
Not surprisingly, large screen time increases have been inevitable in many local households. From our readers’ reports, Roblox has emerged as an alternative to hours of endless YouTube and Disney+.
What is Roblox? A User-generated, Multi-player Online Social Gaming Platform
The company describes the online game as thus:
“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.”
At its bedrock, Roblox is an online platform that enables its millions of users to create and share their own 3D games. This sounds great in theory, a little simplistic game, that allows users to create blocky Lego-esque avatars and program their own games or play games created by other users.
Founded by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004 and released in 2006, the platform hosts user-created games of multiple genres coded in the programming language Lua. CEO and co-creator David Baszucki stated, “We want kids to have an opportunity for free play. Roblox allows them to get together, make their own rules, go together wherever they might want . . . and create together, build together, and in many cases, learn together.”
What Do Parents Say?
Local parents shared that they have encouraged their children to play the popular game, as they feel it is an interactive educational game, not just another cartoon. Furthermore, readers responded that their children have learned about running a business, buying and selling products, and learning how to keep and stick to a budget. Also, they’ve learned how to create their own Roblox-based games by using one of the many easy to find scripted creation tutorials. And at the same time, they are learning the programming language, Lua. The game’s ability to teach children real transferrable skills, coding, game design, and entrepreneurial goals, has won over many local parents.
How Does It Work?
Once the user has created an account and thought up that unique username, then they are ready to play.
The user can customize their avatar’s clothing and expression and if you are part of the Builders Club, you can even make your own shirt or leggings and charge Robux for others to buy them. Players have their own world in which they can customize and access their own gear which includes various weapons, instruments of musical performance (and mass destruction), power-ups, and a cool ride to get around the game in.
But Is It Safe?
Like most games in life, it’s not all fun and giggles. Over the past few years, the platform has been criticized quite heavily for not being the safest environment for children. In 2017, a code exploit allowed hackers to create zones that essentially blocked the child safety filers to allow avatars to roam around naked, simulating sexual movements. Of course, it caused a huge online uproar. In early 2019, BBC News reported the platform was being used by sexual predators to target and groom children, as one mother interviewed is quoted, “They were talking about rape. They were talking about sexual activities that were pornographic. There were some graphic messages sent to my child.” And it’s not just the inappropriate content and nefarious adults that are targeting children, there is some serious financial fallout associated with many families with this “free game.”
Who Is Playing Roblox & What Is The Company Doing To Keep The Players Safe?
Roblox as of yet has not released the ages of its users but says that a majority of them are under 18 and at least half of the US kids are 16 and under on the platform. In a statement issued following the 2019 BBC story, Roblox released this press announcement:
“Roblox has no tolerance for inappropriate content or behavior. It is our responsibility to keep our platform safe, and we work relentlessly to create a safe, civil, and diverse community. We have a stringent safety system in place and a strict set of policies. As with any community, there are a small number of bad actors who attempt to undermine the rules, and we continue to evolve our platform and policies to combat this challenge.”
But Is The Game REALLY Free?
Parents such as our own Jax, are hit with hundreds of dollars on their credit and debit cards. These charges stem from in-game purchases made by their children. Children are seeking the newest skins and hats for their avatar. Keeping your Avatar looking “lit” or “fresh” is a high priority for many young users. With just a few “micropurchases” your Avatar can rock the newest wings and shades.
This is achieved through the purchasing and use of “Robux,” a virtual currency, which can be used on the site to buy things such as cool accessories, gear, shirts, or limited items.
Our own EGT Editor in Chief shared her frustration on social media recently with the game and its micropurchases.
“I’m beside myself. Roxy (8 years old) was caught playing Roblox again. Roxy is banned from iPad, tv, and internet right now unless it is school-related. We are not going to allow Roxy to use Roblox, Fortnite, Snapchat, and Tik Tok at any point in the near future. If you see your kids interacting with Roxy on any of these apps or have reason to believe Roxy is online, please call me or her immediately, even if it’s the middle of the night. We also have a mini hacker on our hands. Don’t ask!”
An updated post that Jax shared said she had found hundreds of dollars of purchases on their bank statement related to the popular game just a few days before. Yes, I really wanted to ask about the budding hacker’s abilities but thought it best not to.
Parents Need To “Skill-Up” On How To Protect Their Children Online
While on its own platform, Roblox strictly enforces its own rules against explicit sexual/graphic behavior and commentary. The company achieves this with artificial intelligence and over two thousand human content moderators. This allows the company to moderate content on the website and outside of it. Parents need to quickly “Skill-Up” to protect their kids from the dangers associated with mass, multi-player online social games. As with any app or game with multiplayer and social function, this game can pose risks for younger kids. Roblox can be safe for older kids with parental supervision and parental controls in place that you feel reflect your family’s values.
You have the power to keep your kids safe online, with just a few clicks.
- Read the Roblox Parent’s User Guide.
- Make sure that your child’s registration in Roblox includes an accurate birthdate! This will enable automatic filtering and other protections designed to protect children under the age of 13 using Roblox.
- Take a few moments to adjust the account settings. Limit the content your child may encounter while playing. You can learn how to adjust those controls here.
- Create an Account PIN. All the parental control settings are native to each account. The user has the option to navigate to settings and change any of the parental control settings. Using a 4-digit PIN number, no changes can be made to the account without a parental review.
- Restrict voice chat only to approved friends or turn it off entirely. Social features can be turned off completely.
- Create a white list of age-appropriate games for your kids.
- Enable Account Restrictions, this means that your child can only access Roblox’s curated content on the platform, not user-created games!
- Play the game. The best way to know if a game is appropriate for your child is just to launch and play it for a few minutes.
- Create a healthy screen time balance as video gaming has both benefits and disadvantages.
- Let children use computers in unsupervised spaces, like their bedrooms.
- Forget to set a budget! You can control how much real cash your kids spend on just about any gaming platform. You can learn more here.
- Let your kids use 3rd Party services such as Discord, without heightened parental supervision. (*)
- Let your kids click on the Spam. Subtle or bold phishing is dangerous. One careless click is all it takes for malicious software to get into devices and wreak havoc. Teach your children the “fake news” that is the “Free Robucks” scam.
- Let your kids have all the fun! Roblox allows kids to play, explore, socialize, create, and learn in a self-directed way. Join your kids as they create games with engaging storylines and learn the programing language Lua.
- Don’t forget to talk to your kids about their own online safety. Roblox also allows your child to block and report annoying or disruptive players. Make sure they (and you) know how to do so.
*Discord, which is big among gamers, allows the discussion of explicit Roblox content. The rule-testing child can use this third-party platform to get around Roblox’s content filters.
EGT Facebook User Feedback & Tips
Bernadette Durbin, of Elk Grove, responded to our inquiry with her thoughts:
“I was nine, back in the days of bulletin board systems, I was taught some safety rules about online interactions. Of course, those days were entirely pseudonymous, so if you refrained from giving out any personal information, such as home, school, or age, people couldn’t track you down. (As proof of this, I was mistaken for someone in her 40s when I was a teenager, which was pretty amusing.)
The overall basic rule is ‘don’t put anything online you wouldn’t want to tell your mother [or another respected person], your boss [or teacher], or your worst enemy.’ And my kids know that if anything online makes them uncomfortable, they can tell us and we’ll be able to let them know if there’s a real issue. Also a lot of talk about ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,’ which ties into what I’ve always told them about advertising.
“As a side note, a friend in another state just posted about a niece of hers with severe autism who was kidnapped. She was also severely traumatized because of an unsupervised online interaction a couple of weeks ago. (The said woman is 18 but emotionally and maturely closer to 12.) It’s hard to instill the proper level of skepticism without making your child cynical, but it’s absolutely necessary.”
“My kids are huge fans of Roblox. They are 6 and 8. We’ve turned off all chat and communication features in the game under their accounts. And they don’t have the passwords change it. Instead, we allow them to chat with a friend via Facebook Messenger. This allows us to control and see who they are talking to and what they are talking about. If it’s a friend of theirs that we know, we can add them onto their friends’ list in Roblox. So they can hop around in games together. We just don’t allow the chatting in-game.”