Parent Alert! Sexual Content on Roblox Plus 3 Safety Tips
Roblox is popular with kids all over the world. It currently hosts 142 million users and it’s been estimated that half of kids in the U.S. under 16 have played Roblox. Sadly it’s easy for predators and bad actors to infect the Roblox platform with sexual content.
Here at Defend Young Minds, we’re not big fans of allowing younger children to play Roblox. So to help parents make informed decisions about Roblox, here are five dangers to young players, plus 3 strategies to help your kids play safer, if you decide to let them have Roblox accounts.
5 red flag warnings of sexual content on Roblox
#1. Not enough control over content
Roblox is not just one game developed by one responsible company. It’s a platform of 20 million games--mostly created by different users and uploaded to the site. It’s like YouTube for video games, Roblox-style. Why is this harmful for kids? Two reasons:
- The endless novelty of new games make playing Roblox even more addicting for the human brain, which rewards novelty with more shots of dopamine.
- The fact that most of the games are “user generated content” makes them difficult to review for sexual content on Roblox.
Roblox could take steps to police its content and protect its young users. For example, it could implement a review system for games similar to Apple’s App Store. Or allow only trusted developers to upload gaming content. These solutions are technically easy, but would limit Roblox’s explosive growth and profitability.
#2. Some Roblox games can be a gateway to porn
Although Roblox is designed for kids ages 8-18, there are no age limits. “Condo games” and digital strip clubs filled with simulated hard core sex acts, raunchy talk and potential predators have infiltrated Roblox. And there’s no age verification to stop your young child from entering one of these games, unless parents have made the effort to designate a white list of acceptable games (see more about parental controls below).
It’s been suggested that letting kids explore their sexuality through online games is akin to “playing doctor”--an activity where young curious kids look at each other’s private parts. However, consider how kids “playing doctor” in an online game is not a safe way to explore their sexuality.
Here are my concerns:
“Playing doctor” between young children of similar ages--for example, two four- or five year-olds, is considered normal and non-sexual. However, when the age disparity is more than two years, professionals begin to suspect that the “play” has become harmful sexual behavior. (Information I shared with Wall Street reporter Julie Jargon for her piece about Roblox.)
Simulated sex in Roblox or other video games can serve as a type of “gateway porn” for children. The sexual role-play teaches children to objectify their bodies, and the bodies of other players, and may introduce violent, dehumanizing, misogynist attitudes about sex. These are just some of the serious harms of porn!
At Defend Young Minds, we receive a steady stream of emails from parents whose children have been exposed to sexual content in video games. Recently, a mom emailed us about how her six year old son was exposed to “Fortnite characters performing in horrifying hard core porn” on YouTube videos that his 6 year old friend showed him. She said, “I’m trying to find the best way to deal with the effects of this on his young mind.”
#3. Kids can be approached by anyone, of any age
If a 19-year-old wanted to play with your 8-year-old at the local park, you’d probably get suspicious. But in Roblox, your child will not know the age (or sexual experience) of the other players. When you let your child play Roblox, you are basically sending them to a playground where the whole world is invited to play. (See the tips below for using parental controls.)
The saying “where children play, predators prey” is especially true for online gaming platforms.
In 2020, Roblox submitted only 2203 reports of suspected child exploitation, online grooming, and child sexual abuse materials to NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children) Cyber Tipline. That’s 2203 too many, but in the same year Snapchat submitted 144,095, Google referred 546,704, and Facebook submitted 20,307,216 to the center. This suggests that Roblox is severely under-reporting.
#4. Crude language
It’s not uncommon to hear racial slurs, hate speech and bullying language between users in a variety of games, including Roblox. Is this what you want your 10-year-old exposed to and imitating?
#5. Roblox’s E10+ rating is a farce
The gaming industry’s parental guidance rating system only evaluates the content created by the parent company itself. It doesn’t review the vast majority of content which is uploaded to Roblox by users.
Instead, the rating system tags multiplayer games with a standard “Users Interact” notice. That’s why Roblox can still offer highly sexualized “condo” games and not lose their “E10+: Appropriate for Everyone 10 and Up” rating.
Since early 2021, Roblox has been promising a ratings system for their games, but so far nothing has been announced. A ratings system would be a step in the right direction--it’s another piece of information for parents. But before parents can trust their kids will be safe on the Roblox platform, that ratings system must be combined with
- stronger and clearer parental controls,
- structural changes to allow only trusted developers to upload games, and
- a more robust game review system.
If Roblox wants to brand themselves as a safe place for kids to play, they need to take full responsibility for the content uploaded to their platform.
3 ways parents can make Roblox safer for kids
#1. Set up parental controls on Roblox
Tips for set up:
- Use the correct date of birth for your child when the account is set up. It’s important to enter their correct birth date because Roblox has default security and privacy settings that vary based on a player’s age. Kids ages 13 and up can see and say more words in chats. Make sure to set a PIN as kids older than 13 will be able to change their birthday if the account isn’t locked.
- Set up a PIN number so your child cannot change the parental controls without your oversight. You can do this by going to Settings, then clicking the Security tab. Toggle the button to enable a PIN, enter your PIN, and save.
Set up privacy controls: Roblox has a social aspect to it, which is both good and bad. Roblox makes it hard, but not impossible for children under 13 to be contacted by strangers. You can further restrict their chat in the parental controls. After logging into Roblox.com:
- Click the Gear icon in the top right
- Select Settings
- Select Privacy
- Select Content Settings and Other Settings to restrict interactions with other players
- Accounts under age 13 can select whether to be able to chat with “Friends” or “No one.”
- Accounts over age 13 can customize several categories:
- “Who can message me” controls who can send a message to your child’s “Messages” inbox.
- “Who can chat with me in-app” controls who can send your child a chat message when they’re using the Roblox app or website. This setting also controls whether a user can post on Group walls.
- “Who can chat with me” controls which users can chat with your child in real time when they’re in a game.
Parent Note: Restricting interactions does NOT disable friend requests. That’s why it’s important to regularly check in on the Friends Request page on the website to make sure your child is not accepting friend requests from strangers.
Review community rules with your child: Make sure they know your expectations for being a good digital citizen. (Get more help from our Brain Defense: Digital Safety curriculum for kids ages 8-11.)
Teach kids about blocking and reporting: With younger kids, make sure you’re available to help them with blocking users who are bullying, using bad language, or asking them to chat with them on another platform.
#3. Teach your child digital defense skills
All kids deserve digital self-defense training to keep them safe online. Before your child gets into Roblox, or plays one more game, make sure they have learned the appropriate digital refusal skills.
An easy way to protect them from digital dangers, like cyber-bullying, pornography, and internet addiction, is with Brain Defense: Digital Safety. Offer your kids ages 8-11 an engaging, video-based curriculum to arm them with safe technology habits to defend their growing minds.
Brain Defense was designed for both families and classrooms. Learn more here and start training your kids today.
Here’s what parents, students and educators are saying about Brain Defense:
“Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent
“My favorite part was the CAN DO plan, because a harmful picture once popped up and the plan really helped.”--5th grade student, Portland, Oregon
“The Brain Defense curriculum was easy to use and the short videos were very engaging! I felt very comfortable teaching my students about the dangers of pornography, particularly, because this program laid out vital information about how the brain works and how addiction occurs. My students found the topic interesting and the tips helpful! It is a program I will definitely use again!” --Sonya Carrillo, St. Catherine’s
Brain Defense is an “open & go” curriculum--just print out the workbooks and press PLAY! Learn more today so your kid will be safer tomorrow.
Roblox can be a fun online platform, but make sure you go in with your eyes wide open. Set up the parental controls, monitor your child’s use, and teach them digital self-defense skills (Brain Defense can help). And if you want extra points, play Roblox with your kids!
Brain Defense: Digital Safety Curriculum - Family Edition
Parents are desperate for concepts and language like this to help their children. They would benefit so much from this program - and I think it would spur much needed conversations between parents and children.” --Jenet Erikson, parent