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Roblox – what is it, and how safe is it?

By Mat Hasker on 04 Jun, 2019

My son asked me once if he could play Roblox. It’s not a game I play, but I’ve certainly heard of it – I seem to recall a couple of his favourite Youtubers (celebrities who record gameplay videos) play it. Turns out, some of his friends at school have started playing it and so wanted to join in.

I also know that Roblox is an online multiplayer game – that is, players interact with other players. While Roblox is a good introduction to online gaming for a younger audience, it obviously carries risk. Your children talking with other people online who may or may not be who they say they areDoesn’t sound like a very good idea, does it?

The BBC recently reported incidents where children’s safety has been compromised. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen such reports, and sadly, I’m sure it won’t be the last. 

But at the same time, taking appropriate precautions and teaching your child how to stay safe, Roblox can be a safe place to play, as well as other games. Let me explain.

Exactly what is Roblox?

Roblox is a computer game that is free to play. You visit www.roblox.com, sign up and download the game. It’s target audience is children and young people, but people of all ages can play. You can also download it from the Microsoft Store.

The difference with Roblox compared to other games is that all the games run on community created servers – that is, the games are hosted on servers that are created by other members of the community, not made by the people who make the game (though, there may be exceptions).  This means that not only the content is created by random people on the internet, but also the people who join the servers are random too.

A lot of the content is free, but you can buy assets and character customisations with an in game currency called “Robux”. Robux is purchased with real money.

So my child can talk with random people on the internet?

Yes – in game, there is a chat window which, by default, your child can talk to anyone in that chat window

That sounds scary

It does, doesn’t it. I thought that exact thing too when I first read up about itNaturally, I was reluctant, but after reading up on the safety and privacy features, I had a plan and months later, he is playing Roblox and having fun doing so, while staying safe.

Here are some tips that I hope you will find helpful.

1. Read the Parents Guide – It may sound like hard work, having to read a guide about a game your child wants to play, but given the nature of the game, I highly recommend you do so. You can find it here: https://corp.roblox.com/parents/ . While everything on this page is worth learning, I would like to highlight this particular point:

    a. Roblox offers parental controls that allow for a selection of chat options (no chat, chat with friends, chat with everyone), account age visibility (13+ or <13), an account PIN code feature, and an Account Restrictions setting that only allows children under 13 to access a curated list of age-appropriate games.

2. Don’t use your child’s real name – this may seem like an obvious thing to point out, but when creating a username for your child’s account, don’t use their real name. Let them be creative and choose a random one. GladiatorCheeseFlowerMcFlowerHead Anything other than their real name. You may also not want to provide their actual birth date, but bear in mind they use the birthday to work out what age your child is, so try to keep it the same year but perhaps change the date and month – I always do.

3. Enabling Parental Controls – the absolute key to keeping your child safe when playing Roblox is how to control communication, and how to apply a PIN so that your child can’t change the settings. You have a number of options with Roblox, all of which are outlined in the guide here, but here is my quick guide (assuming you have already created an account for your child):

   a. Enable PIN – Once logged in, go to the cog in the top right. Go to Settings. Now, there is a little menu just on the left: 

   b. Click on Security. Toggle the switch next to Account PIN is currently disabled. It if you haven’t assigned a valid email address to your account, it will ask you to do this.

   c. Once you have done this, it will ask you for a PIN. Keep this PIN to yourself! Now, every time your child wants to change any of the administration settings, a PIN will be required. With no PIN, they can’t change the settings.

   d. You can also apply Account Restrictions – this means that only curated content (content reviewed by Roblox) can be accessed by your child, and not just any content created by anyone. 

   e. Now, go to Privacy. You can change Contact Settings. You can change communication settings to Off, so that no one can chat to your child (as screenshot below), but at the very least, ensure that “Who can chat with me in game” is switched to No one.

   f. You may now want to change the other settings so that no one can invite your child to other games under Other Settings. I recommend you keep “Who can join me in game” as Friends, and you’ll see why below.

4. Download the ConnectSafely Parents Guide – Roblox also provide a safety guide written by ConnectSafely, an online safety organisation based in the US. https://corp.roblox.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Roblox-ConnectSafely-Parents-Guide-v2.pdf

5. Read the FAQ – I know, more reading – I appreciate that. But it is important to be in the know https://corp.roblox.com/faq/

6. Create an account yourself and play with your child – in order to know exactly what your child is getting themselves into. One of the best ways of doing this is creating an account yourself and playing with them! Simply create an account, search for your child’s username and once you have found them, click “Add Friend”. Now, you and your child can join the same game. I do this often with my son – when he has found a new game, sometimes I jump in with him to investigate what kind of game it is. My chat is always on, so I can see what kind of things people are saying, while he can’t.

7. Sit with your child when they are playing – or at the very least, check on them often. Watch what they are doing, ensure they are playing safely and are not doing something they shouldn’t be doing.

8. Warn them of the dangers – Have you ever taught your child not to talk to strangers? Warned them about touching electricity sockets? The same concept should be applied to teaching them online behaviour – and be honest about it. Tell them that there are bad people on the internet and if they ask for anything like their real name, address or compromising pictures, get them to tell you. Have they invited you to use another program to chat to them? Tell them to tell you first.  

Talking of which, that BBC article spoke about a third-party chatting app…

Well that is the other danger – obviously, Roblox has no control over how your child uses third party chat apps, like Facebook Messenger, or even Discord (a popular chatting app for gamers), so parental guidance and vigilance is required.

Sounds like a lot of hard work!

I know, right? What ever happened to those days where you could just give them a computer game and just let them play it?

Well, those days still exist – there are games that they can play that don’t have this kind of interaction. So if you at any point feel uncomfortable with anything to do with your child playing Roblox, or if there is something you don’t understand, the best course of action is to not let them play it. Yes, they will probably be upset, and yes they may not like for a while. But I’m sure you’ll agree that is a price you’re willing to pay to keep your child safe.

So…how safe is Roblox?

As with everything online, safety should be high priority, even higher when it comes to your childrenRoblox gives you the tools necessary to put protective measures in place to help protect your child. Teach your children the dangers of the internet. Tell them what to look out for, watch them play and show them what you are happy and not happy with. Then, ask them to report anything that doesn’t look right to you. This of course is not just limited to Roblox, this applies to any online interaction, be it gaming, social media and even e-mail.

Read more about Online Gaming on GetSafeOnline.org here https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-yourself/online-gaming/

And if you do end up playing Roblox with them, I highly recommend Restaurant Simulator

Mat Hasker is a web specialist, gamer, musician and writer