With the mass transition of social activities to online spaces over the past two years, many platforms have seen immense growth. One of the largest of these is Roblox, an online multiplayer platform with a whopping 164 million active monthly users as of August 2020. Roblox, which some have dubbed a kind of proto-metaverse, is believed to be used by over half of all American kids. Chances are you’ve heard of it, or even seen it in action, but you might be more than a little confused about what exactly goes on in this virtual world. Read on for a run-down of the basics, plus some tips on how to make it as safe and fun as possible for growing gamers.
What is Roblox?
Roblox is an online platform designed to host user-generated games. Users can sign on to create their own, or play games created by others. There are literally millions of games, of varying quality, though better ones tend to be more popular and therefore more prominent. Kids who want to make games of their own can access a wiki and instructions inside the platform. There’s also a chat/party function where kids can chat with fellow players. As of 2021, verified users over 13 can also use voice chat through a beta feature called Spatial Voice.
Is Roblox safe for kids?
As with any online multiplayer game, there is an inherent risk of contact with strangers on Roblox, and there have been cases of predators using the platform to contact children. There have also been cases of children discovering inappropriate sexual content on the platform, made by users who have found ways to get around the site’s content and language restrictions. And whenever there’s a chance that children might encounter something uncomfortable or even dangerous, it’s important to make sure they know they can come to you without fear of getting in trouble.
That said, Roblox is proactive in terms of safety, and they’re serious about building a platform that children can enjoy safely. Chat is filtered to block inappropriate language and exchange of potentially identifying information, and is also monitored by actual humans.
Parental controls allow parents to limit or disable chat altogether, and to restrict game access to a list of Roblox-approved age-appropriate games. Crucially, parental controls can be protected by a PIN, so that kids can’t go in and change them. Keep in mind that parental controls are not mandatory, so kids can create their own accounts and toggle with settings themselves if parents aren’t in the loop.
Roblox also employs an automated avatar clothing detection feature, to make sure avatars are visually appropriate for kids. There’s also a reporting system built-in to chat and games, so players and parents can report inappropriate messages or content. Roblox has also developed a Trust & Safety Advisory Board with international digital safety experts who consult on safety measures within the platform.
As with anything, Roblox safety measures aren’t foolproof, and the best way to keep kids safer online is open and honest communication. Check in regularly with their Roblox use. Get involved, be curious and ask questions the same way you would with any hobby or interest. Supervised play is a good option, as is playing in the same room as a parent without headphones.
What should parents know about Roblox?
While Roblox is technically free, there is a paid premium option, as well as an in-game currency called Robux. Players can accumulate Robux by buying them with real-world money, paying for a premium subscription which includes a Robux allowance and charging other players within games they create. Players are incentivized to spend Robux, as they allow access to special features like avatar customization, and may be required within certain games. Some developers even make their primary income on Roblox, by charging players for various features inside the games they develop.
Due to the massive, open-world nature and social aspects of Roblox, it can be incredibly alluring for many kids. This interest can spill over to fixation in some kids if left unchecked. Setting time limits, checking in regularly, and encouraging other types of play and entertainment are all good ideas.
Roblox can be a great way for kids to connect with friends and play creatively. It can also be an exciting first step for kids who want to learn to code and make their own games. As with any online activity, moderation and communication are key. Happy gaming!
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