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The Roblox boom is giving some parents pause, as they wonder if the game's multiplayer format and free and open communication policy are safe for kids. As with any video game with these features, there are some risks, but overall, Roblox can be a safe gaming platform for older children according to experts—especially when parents take some precautions.
Here, we dive into what Roblox is, potential risks you should know about, and how you can keep your child safe from the risks experts want all parents to know about.
What Is Roblox?
Roblox is a free online gaming platform that allows users to play games designed by other players—as well as design their own. The platform has seen a major boost in popularity, with an average of 55.1 million daily active users as of February 2022, up 28% year over year.
The "imagination platform," as it's advertised, is available on all smartphones, tablets, computers, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive where users can design and upload their own games on a proprietary program called Roblox Studio to play in a global community, explains Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark and author of Parenting in a Tech World.
On their site, Roblox explains this means that players can build the ultimate theme park, compete as a professional race car driver, star in a fashion show, become a superhero, or simply design a dream home and hang out with friends.
"The platform offers thousands of free user-created games," says Jordan. "It's extremely popular among all ages, but its easy-to-use functionality, creative tools, and free games make it especially appealing to young gamers."
Although users can access an infinite number of games without paying a dime, the platform also has its own currency referred to as "Robux," which can be used to purchase additional features, like avatar upgrades, and kids will likely want to subscribe to the Builders Club, which also provides additional features for a membership fee, according to Common Sense Media.
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How Old Should Kids Be to Play Roblox?
There is no official age that kids can play Roblox, but Common Sense Media rates the platform safe for users 13+ "based on continuing challenges with problematic content. But Roblox is also potentially safe for kids younger than that if account restrictions are turned on, and parents pay close attention to their kids' activities on the platform."
In late 2021, Roblox rolled out age verification, which requires a child 13 and older to verify their age using a government issued ID, notes Shelby Knox, campaign director for ParentsTogether, a family-focused nonprofit organization in the U.S.
"However, parents should remember that verifying their child's age gives them access to more features, like voice chat, which can bring additional risks," she explains, pointing out that in September 2022, Roblox introduced new Experience Guidelines that allows each game to receive one of three ratings: "All Ages," "9+," or "13+."
"Parents can choose which level is appropriate for their child by accessing the settings in their child's account," says Knox.
Certain features, such as voice chat, are also age-limited by Roblox themselves. Roblox requires players to prove they are over the age of 13 to access the voice chat feature, says Knox.
"However, players have complained that some younger children have been able to get around the requirement," explains Knox. "In the same vein, Roblox now allows parents of children under 13 to put a spending limit on their child's account and choose to be notified whenever their child makes a purchase. This came after parents around the globe came forward about their children spending thousands of dollars on Robux, the in-game currency, without their parents ever being notified. But again this leaves a large group of minor players who, if they are able to access a credit card, will be able to spend unlimited amounts of money without their parents ever knowing."
Roblox's Risks Parents Need to Know, According to Experts
Because Roblox is an interactive game that also offers features such as chat boxes, there are risks that parents should be aware of.
Although kids might be interacting with other kids, there are also adults on the platform, and harassment and exploitation by predators is a potential risk, points out Knox.
In the past, parents expressed concern about the safety of Roblox for kids after reports of sexually-suggestive material in the game and explicit instances of characters being assaulted. Such instances may be rare, but experts offer the following warnings to parents, which can apply to any online gaming platform.
Any multiplayer platform can lead to troubling interactions.
One of the safety concerns with Roblox is the risk that kids could interact with predators in the chat function. "Like many other gaming platforms, Roblox has elements of self-policing including moderators and rules, but there are always ways for individuals with the wrong intentions to make their way into the platform and into your child's chat room," points out Jordan.
She points to a 2019 case out of the U.K. in which a mom learned her son was being groomed by a predator on the platform which led to receiving sexually explicit images on a third-party chat app not affiliated with Roblox.
ParentsTogether has also heard from several members about deeply troubling contacts their children have experienced on Roblox including a 7-year-old in Massachusetts who was "contacted by someone wanting her to send pics, because they wanted to be her friend."
"Remember that everything a user experiences on Roblox was created by other users," says Jordan.
User-generated games could expose kids to inappropriate content.
One of the main risks parents should know about Roblox are user-generated games, or "condo games," that feature adult content, such as simulated sex acts, graphic images, and inappropriate language.
"Thanks to the nature of the platform allowing anyone to upload content at will, as well as the lack of in-game moderation during interactive experiences, virtually anything goes during gameplay," points out Jeff Haynes, a senior editor with Common Sense Media. "Most of this is attributed to condo games, but part of the difficulty is that many of these experiences don't even appear like the stereotypical condo games from a few years ago. They look like safer games that can draw in users, only to discover that there's inappropriate content lurking inside."
How Roblox Is Addressing Safety Concerns
In response to safety concerns, Roblox notes that the platform was designed for kids and teens from the beginning, and they're committed to making safety a priority. "We have a responsibility to make sure our players can learn, create, and play safely," notes Tami Bhaumik, Vice President of Civility & Partnerships at Roblox. "This continues to be our most important priority and that will never change."
She adds that the company has a human review team monitoring for safety in multiple languages and keeping an eye out for chat behavior that clearly indicates an attempt to bring a player off their platform to other and for users under 13, filters are even stricter, such as blocking all use of numbers and potentially personal identifiable information. The platform also does not allow the sending of images or video via chat or one-to-one user interactions.
You can also stay on top of what Roblox is doing to evolve its safety system via regular updates and its Parents Guide.
"Roblox continues to strengthen safety and parental control options on its platform," notes Jordan.
Haynes points to one such safety feature: a game recommendation system based around three different categories:
"All ages, which may have infrequent mild violence and unrealistic blood; 9+, which is content for 9 years old and up, would include frequent mild violence and possibly lots of unrealistic blood; and 13+ for older kids, featuring frequent moderate and heavier forms of violence as well as potentially realistic blood," he explains. "Otherwise, many of the same parental controls from before remain in place. If a parent has specified an age range for their kid, they should only be allowed to get access to those recommended titles."
How to Keep Your Child Safe on Roblox
Whether or not Roblox is safe for your kids depends in part on the steps you take to protect them when they're online. It's always a good idea to have open and honest communication with your kids regarding technology. So, talk to your kids about internet safety and be sure they know who to turn to if they encounter a situation that makes them feel uncomfortable. Additionally, the following moves could protect kids from predators, according to experts.
Familiarize yourself with parental controls.
The experts we spoke with emphasize the importance of understanding the parental controls not just for Roblox but any game, app, or website your child wants to use. At the same time, they recommend sitting down and playing the game with your child to get a better understanding of it and to be better prepared to help them navigate it.
Use parental controls (and skip the chat rooms).
To keep Roblox safe for kids, Bark recommends that parents disable their child's chat functionality, especially if they're not supervising play directly.
For instance, you can enable Account Restrictions to lock your child's account's settings so that no other user can send them messages, chat in-app or in-game, or find their account by phone number. None of these settings can be individually adjusted when Account Restrictions are turned on.
To get started, Bark recommends setting parental controls on Roblox by doing the following:
Log in to the account.
Click the gear icon, and then click Settings.
On the right-hand side of the Settings page, click Privacy.
From here, you can adjust both Contact Settings and Other Settings.
If your child is 12 or younger, you can choose Friends or No one. If your child is 13 or older, there are additional options for interaction with other players.
"Parents who want additional control should go to the Security section of the Account Settings page," says Jordan. "Here, they can set a PIN and other account restrictions."
You can also choose exactly who can message and chat with your child, along with who can invite them to join them in private servers, adds Jordan. "Roblox gives parents the ability to log in to their child's account and see nearly everything they've been doing on the app, including: group chats, private messages, friends and followers, virtual item purchases and trade history, creations, and recently played games," she notes.
Remind kids who are allowed to chat to adhere to safe practices.
Chatting with strangers is one of the risks of Roblox for kids. Common Sense Media encourages parents to coach kids to not chat with people they don't know (unless they can verify they're actually a friend, or a friend of a friend, in real life) and to not accept private messages (PMs) from anyone they don't know.
They also advise emphasizing that kids should never give away personal information, trust their instincts if someone makes them uncomfortable, and never move a conversation to a different platform (a telltale predator red flag).
Don't allow kids to play behind closed doors.
"Parents should also institute a blanket rule that all electronic devices be charged in a common area outside your child's bedroom," says Knox.
Prevent kids from making changes to their accounts.
Restricting access to certain settings can make Roblox safer for kids, too. "Parents can also set a PIN code to prevent them from making changes to their account without permission—such as giving themselves broader play access," says Jordan. "This also allows parents to curate their own game lists for their children."
Maintain an open line of communication.
Whether you're supervising your child on Roblox or not, Knox recommends having ongoing, direct and open conversations to ensure your child knows that they can and should talk to you if they see or experience anything online that doesn't seem right to them.
"Like many online communities, Roblox allows kids to connect with their peers over a shared activity," she explains. "It's even more enticing because Roblox continues to feel like a kid-majority space because all in-game experiences are created by other users. But that feeling of shared, safe community can be dangerous because not everyone claiming to be a minor is one and people with bad intentions and access to children can do incredible harm. That's why parents need to use the parental controls available and talk to their kids about safely engaging in online spaces. It's not enough to have these conversations once; parents need to keep an open line of communication."
The Bottom Line
Roblox is a safe gaming platform for kids when parents take the recommendations from our experts seriously. But like all technology, it comes with risks, so it's best to start conversations about staying safe with your kids as early as possible. Make it a rule that kids play Roblox in a shared family space where you can supervise their activity, use parental controls, and keep checking in regularly with your kids to help ensure their safety.