Staying on top of your kids’ online gaming can feel like an uphill battle with how quickly new technology unfolds. Elementary and middle school kids are probably familiar with the popular game Roblox, but parents might not know anything about it. According to Active Player, in the last thirty days, the game has drawn more than 217 million players. It’s advertised as an “imagination platform” and can be played on smartphones, computers, tablets and gaming systems.
But is Roblox safe for kids? Well, for starters, it’s helpful to know how it works.
What is Roblox?
If you’re not familiar with the online gaming platform, here’s how it works. The multi-player platform is a space where you can play games designed by other users and create and share your own game. The company says it’s 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.
After signing up, you can play as many games as you’d like for free and communicate with other users. There’s no minimum age to play and people from any group can chat with each other.
If kids want to customize their avatar with clothing and accessories or play the game to its full ability, they have to purchase “Robux,” the in-game currency that costs real-life dollars. Additional charges come when subscribing to Roblox Premium, which supplies additional features for a fee.
What Precautions Are In Place To Make Roblox Safe For Kids?
Common Sense Media rates Roblox OK for users age 13 and older, but younger children are able to set up accounts and play. Since users of any age can interact with each other, it poses some risks to kids.
Users are given the option to interact with it’s “Chat & Party” function, which has filters in place. So, if someone types in a swear word, it’s replaced by symbols. For those under 13, stronger filters are in place. In 2021, the company implemented an age verification system, requiring anyone 13 and up to show a government-issued ID. Parents who verify their kid’s age means they will be granted access to more features, including voice chat. In addition to programmed filters, employees also monitor chats for inappropriate language and content.
Roblox offers controls that allow parents to restrict how kids can interact with the site and what kind of games they are allowed to play. However, kids of any age can create an account without parental restrictions. For those following the rules, the company has “Experience Guidelines” that rate each game as all ages, 9+ or 13+. To help reduce risk even further, communication and privacy settings should be set to friends-only or no communication.
No matter what gaming platform children use, parents can help their kids stay safe by teaching them online best practices and enabling privacy settings. However, if you have a tech-savvy kid, this could pose a risk. While there are stricter settings on accounts for children under age 13, kids can change the settings if no parent PIN is enabled.
Not only do parents want to make sure appropriate settings are in place, but they can now set a cap on their child’s spending habits, thanks to a recent rollout. This is the direct result of parental complaints that their children spent thousands of dollars with Robux without being notified. One man’s daughter spent over $7,200 on Roblox over two months during the lockdown, despite putting a cap on purchases when he originally set up the account. Another man’s granddaughter racked up more than $5,000 in charges, not realizing she was spending real money.
Some kids have reported feeling pressured to buy gifts for others, and scammers have also taken advantage of children, conning them into gifting these expensive items to them. Sometimes the scammers pretend to be famous YouTubers to gain trust. To stop this from happening, parents are urged to check settings on the app and third-party services like iTunes to make sure in-app purchases are either restricted or turned off. You can also install a password to be required for all purchases.
Keeping Online Predators Away
Unfortunately, online predictors lurk wherever games are marketed to children. They try to gradually lure kids off the platform and onto other social platforms where restrictions aren’t in place. In the past, kids have reported sexually suggestive material in the game, or times when their characters were assaulted. This can happen on any multiplayer platform game. People with ill-intentions try to lure others to different platforms under the disguise of being a “friend” and then ask to either meet in person or exchange illicit images.
At the end of the day, the more open communication you have with your child, the better. As a parent, familiarizing yourself with parental controls and setting up restrictions can help create necessary guardrails. And once those basic parameters are in place, your kids can have a relatively fun and safe gaming platform to enjoy.