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Is Roblox safe for children to play? This is the question that a lot of parents are grappling with, following the recent concerns raised in the media. To help ease those fears, Pocket-lint tech journalist and Games Expert, Andy Robertson sheds light on the game and how it can be played safely.
Roblox has been a major hit with children worldwide, even though it is an odd-looking and often confusing game. For parents at least.
Like Minecraft before it, its attraction to youngsters is partly because mum and dad don’t get it. That makes it all the more exciting but can also lead to fears over its safety. After all, much of Roblox is played online.
There are many Roblox rumours, fake scare stories, and incorrect advice rife on social media and even in newspapers that demonise the game. However, children can play it safely and enjoyably with a little supervision and understanding.
That’s why we’ve put together a quick guide to help you understand what makes Roblox so popular and how to ensure your kids don’t get any nasty surprises.
What Is Roblox?
Roblox is an online game creator system where the majority of the content is created by “amateur” game creators. These game makers are able to create and publish games to the community using simple tools. And that means they can try ideas that wouldn’t get funded for a commercial release.
These games can then be played by children worldwide, often online together, through a phone or tablet application or a web browser.
Games like Prison Escape, Work in a Pizza Place, Shark Attack or Disaster Survival offer a playful way to experience adult-like scenarios in quick competitive rounds played socially.
Roblox games reflect the sort of imaginative play you often find in the playground. One child has an idea about a game to play, others join him or her and the rules slowly change as the group decides how to have fun together. Roblox creators can quickly update and adjust their games to match the demands of the huge playing community.
This ever-changing and expanding library of games is a big part of Roblox popularity. Combine this with the millions of other players to compete against in challenges and you have the perfect recipe for youngsters to enjoy.
As with any online game, there are some dangers to be aware of, though, which we’ll go through now.
Roblox user-generated content
Because the content in Roblox is user-generated it doesn’t fall under the same rigorous age ratings as content made by commercial companies. Roblox itself is rated PEGI 7 in the UK, with rating details that explicitly say there is no blood.
The VSC who administer the legally binding PEGI ratings do state that the rating only covers the basic system and a few sample games. The same is true in other territories, with the ESRB taking a similar approach in the US.
Roblox itself does filter and check the games that are being created both for inappropriate images and profanity. However, games are still allowed that can have horror, murder or bloody themes. One game we tried, Hotline Roblox, tasked players with knocking each other over with guns or knives before then beating each other’s head until they died with blood splatters.
The best solution to this is to specify the Account Restrictions setting in the linked Roblox account. This limits the playable games to those selected by Roblox itself. Although do note that setting a child’s age as under 13 doesn’t limit the games they can access.
Roblox in-game purchases
Although the actual game of Roblox is free to play, children are incentivised to make purchases in the game with real money. Kids can purchase Robux for cash which are then spent on equipment and outfits in the games.
Ensure that you are tracking and password protecting credit cards on your systems, so no unanticipated purchases are made. It’s worth talking to your child about this commercial aspect of the game before they play.
All the games work fine without additional content, but at the same time will signpost players to benefits of spending money as this is how game makers make a profit from their creations.
Roblox parental controls
First, it is important that you enter the correct date of birth for your child’s account. This will trigger the appropriate safe-chat with a higher level of filtering. Additionally, this means you will get a separate parent login so you can check up on your child’s interactions.
You should limit games to those curated by Roblox staff as follows:
- Log in to roblox.com
- Click the Gear icon in the top right
- Select Settings then Security
- Enable the Account Restrictions slider
Monitoring your child’s account
Roblox has several ways to monitor account activity. While logged in, you can view the following histories from their related sections:
- Direct and small group chat (Chat & Party feature found in the lower right corner of the apps). There you can see individual chat histories. This feature is limited to Friends, and Friends of Friends.
- Private message history (Messages)
- Friends and Followers (Friends)
- Virtual item purchase and trade history (My Transactions, browser only)
- Creations such as games, items, sounds, ads…etc (Create, browser only)
- Recently played games (Home, Keep Playing or My Recent)
Roblox online interactions
Being an online game means that players in Roblox can interact and communicate with each other in various ways. This can be via voice or written text once friend requests have been made.
It is simple to restrict these interactions on the settings for your account:
- Log in to roblox.com
- Click the Gear icon in the top right
- Select Settings then Privacy
- Restrict interactions via Content Settings and Other Settings
You should note that this doesn’t disable friend requests in Roblox. Therefore, it’s important to check in on the Friend Requests page on the website to ensure strangers are not being accepted.
Roblox on Xbox
A couple of years ago Roblox game to the Xbox. How the parental controls works on the Xbox is slightly different to a PC, Mac or tablet.
Although the Xbox has controls for friend requests, this doesn’t restrict those in Roblox as they are considered a different type of “in-game” friend. However, the Microsoft terms of service for game makers means that players can’t make new friends while playing on Xbox. They will only see friends already made on the PC, Mac or tablet.
Additionally, you can further limit the interactions with other players on the Xbox as follows:
- Start Roblox
- Select the Account Settings page
- Identify the Linked Account
- Apply restrictions via roblox.com for this account.
- Toggle on/off Cross Platform Gameplay to limit who your children can play with (Note: Currently Roblox doesn’t support cross-platform messaging, so Xbox players can’t message players on other platforms)
Roblox police warnings
Hopefully, that should clear up exactly what Roblox is and how to keep your kids safe while playing it. The final thing to mention is that the slew of tweets, Facebook posts, emails and school gate chatter about police warnings on nudity and stranger danger in the game didn’t originate from Kent Police as has been widely reported.
The real danger here is scaring parents into banning the game and closing down the opportunity for healthy and helpful conversations about appropriate behaviour online. As ever the best way to mitigate any of these risks in your family is to play the game together and keep devices and consoles in shared family spaces.
Andy Robertson | December 31st, 2019
Andy Robertson has three children and enjoys racing R/C cars, playing board games and video games with his family. He is a freelance family technology expert for the BBC. He also runs the Family GamerTV YouTube channel and contributes to a range of national media on the topic of video games and family.