We need to talk about Roblox. It’s a rapidly-growing game with millions of kids playing each day, and a whole lot of fun! It’s creative because users can create their own games and content changes frequently. Kids seems to love that — it doesn’t get old or boring. Roblox is the server or the umbrella, but under that, there are many games (over 15 million according to their website) created by users.
First, I need to tell you the story of what prompted this post. My kids have played this game for several months as we’ve all been learning it. They always “game” in an open area of our home (no screens behind closed doors are allowed). They have their accounts in privacy mode. According to the Roblox website (see pic below), “locked privacy settings prevent contact from people they don’t know. These players must first become friends with another user before certain activities are allowed, such as messaging, following into game, and playing in private servers.”
This gives the impression that our kids are protected from strangers. They are not. It’s a false sense of security. Strangers still got to interact with my kids within the game!
A couple months ago, my child’s private account had a stranger in the game who started asking personal questions. I was in my kitchen, she was at our kitchen island. A stranger reached out to my daughter literally right in front of my face, and I wouldn’t have had a clue if she didn’t tell me!! Think about if a stranger came up to your kid in the grocery store and started asking her name, city, school, etc. — we would flip out!! We need to be on guard, Parents!!
My child knew what to do because we continually talk about online strangers. She wrote back “Stalker! Bye Felicia” (ha!) and reported the activity. By the way, I LOVE the Roblox reporting screen — I took a screenshot for you (see pic below). We highlighted “personal question” because that’s not allowed. We reported it.
After all this happened, I’ve been researching this in more detail. Here are my primary concerns with Roblox:
1) Content. There are many, many different games to play created by users within Roblox (which is why it’s so fun and creative). Some of the game content is inappropriate. They change often and new games become available so it’s a constant monitoring situation for content. Their website says Roblox is for ages 8-18. I do not want my third grader shooting others with guns on a screen (Prison Life) or killing people (Murder Mystery). Also, cussing is all over the place so the younger your child is, the more you want to talk with them about it (as you can see, swearing is at the top of the list for the reporting screen). Strangers playing along your child can basically write anything they want. When you’re not in privacy mode, you can even move to a private area to play.
2) Strangers. We have to keep talking to our kids about online strangers. People will lie about who they are to build a relationship with your child. I’ve been talking to my kids for years (even before my oldest had her own phone) about not talking to people online. I often say, “You wouldn’t open the front door of our house without mom or dad so don’t ever talk, text, comment, chat, etc. with someone you don’t know online.” This morning, had I not had all those conversations, it could’ve been the start of a relationship forming with a complete stranger.
We must also maintain a balance. I’ve learned that going into crazy mom-mode doesn’t solve anything. It puts up walls and destroys the parent-child relationship. Normally, our kids don’t want to report bad stuff to us because they’re afraid we’ll take away the app. If my child does nothing wrong, I don’t punish them! I actually reward them. Create a teachable moment from it. Talk again about the dangers of online strangers. Do your research. I didn’t make my kids delete Roblox. They are still playing. BUT, I said to them, “You have been given this freedom because you are reporting and not talking to strangers. If I check your accounts and find otherwise, you will no longer play.” Then, I shared a real-life story of a kid who has taken by on online stranger.
We see it over and over again. Every site. Every app. I had my settings set to the highest security. Bad content or questionable material (a stranger asking way too many personal questions) still got through to my child. Restrictions are a tool to use, but they’re not THE answer. The answer is OPEN COMMUNICATION. My new book, TALK: A Practical Approach to Cyberparenting and Open Communication, points to this solution as I cover each topic individually.
Also, I need to add — when I reached out to parents, I found that most are YOUNGER kids on this app. In fact, there are tech-savvy parents on our team who have older kids (late middle and high school) but have never heard of this one. It’s new and our YOUNG elementary kids are playing it!
FYI — You can go to the Roblox website for more information. Click on the “FAQ” tab.
*I wrote this back in Jan on the nextTalk FB page, but wanted to post it on my blog so it could be easily found. You can find more info about our nonprofit organization at nextTalk.org.