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January 18

Is Roblox Safe for Kids? 2024 Safety Guide for Parents

A few months ago, we had a couple of parents reach out asking if we would produce something about Roblox. Up to that point we hadn’t really engaged with Roblox, but one thing we knew for sure: it’s incredibly popular with young players. Writing about it would give us a chance to finally discover what all the fuss was about. Yet, as we dove into researching Roblox, the more our excitement dimmed, and the more our discomfort grew. So what’s up with Roblox?

To begin, there’s two important things to understand about Roblox: what it is and who plays it.

Related: A Parent’s Guide to Video Games

What is Roblox?

To say Roblox is a game isn’t entirely accurate. Roblox isn’t a singular video game, instead, it’s a toolset to make video games, and a platform to play those games. So Roblox is more of an ecosystem with thousands upon thousands of unique game experiences that are designed by the community – the other players – inside Roblox.

You can play crude facsimiles of other games, like Call of Duty or Madden. You can join a role playing game, where players have virtual lives and jobs and relationships. You could even try your hand at creating games, using Roblox’s game design toolset. If this sheer amount of experiences you can have playing Roblox didn’t draw in players enough, they’re all completely free. Well, sort of – we’ll come back to the free thing in a bit. Still, this variety attracts a large quantity of players.

How old do you have to be to play Roblox?

There isn’t a specified age requirement for children to play Roblox. However, Common Sense Media deems the platform safe for users aged 13 and above, considering ongoing issues with problematic content. Nevertheless, Roblox can be considered safe for younger kids if account restrictions are activated, and parents closely monitor their children’s activities on the platform.

Roblox’s CEO David Baszucki has said he wants Roblox to become a billion-player platform. What’s more notable, however, is the age of Roblox’s playerbase. Roblox self-reported that 47% of their playerbase is 12 or younger. Half of the people who play aren’t even teenagers yet. Beyond this, during the  Covid-19 pandemic, half of all kids in the US under the age of 16 were playing Roblox.

Is Roblox safe for kids? Here’s what parents need to know about Roblox

So Roblox is a free platform to make and play games that’s incredibly popular with kids. Here’s where we arrive at some of the uncomfortable parts of Roblox. For the rest of this article, we want to explore two of the more distressing aspects of Roblox that parents should be aware of. One, how Roblox makes money. Two, not everyone is who they say they are. Our goal is not to spread fear but rather to bring to light some important aspects of Roblox’s design; aspects detrimental towards its young playerbase.

How does Roblox make money?

The first thing to look at is the way that Roblox makes money. Remember, it’s free, but anyone who’s had a kid in their life ask them for “V-bucks” in Fortnite will have a decent understanding of what we’re about to talk about. Actually, Fortnite can provide a decent comparison. Free-to-play games often make money by selling digital cosmetics or “skins” that change the way the in-game character looks. In both Fortnite and Roblox, players can exchange real money for the in-game currency, V-bucks in the case of Fortnite, Robux in the case of Roblox. These in-game currencies are then used to buy those cosmetics.

This system is intentional, and it serves to muddy the actual costs of the cosmetics the games are selling. Sure, you may have converted your actual money into the in-game currency, and most players are aware of the conversion rates, but it’s harder for the average ten-year-old to think of that in-game currency as actual money. It’s monopoly money. It’s chips at a casino. On top of this, both Roblox and Fortnite create false-scarcity for skins. Because they are a digital good, there’s no true supply limit, but that doesn’t mean you can’t limit how long they are available. If players miss a skin while it’s purchasable, they may never be able to buy it again. This leads to a pressure to buy quickly, without thinking.

Where Fortnite and Roblox diverge, though, is the existence of Roblox’s “Avatar Shop” where players can resell their skins to other users. It’s basically a stock-market, but with Roblox skins.

If this sounds like a lot of psychological trickery to get ten-year-olds to spend money, that’s because it is. Fortnite was sued by the Federal Trade Commission for containing “dark patterns to trick players into making unwanted purchases” and regulators have also been taking a serious look at Roblox for similar reasons. The long and the short is this: Roblox, and games like it, despite being free, often use predatory tactics to manipulate young people into spending money, while effectively introducing them to the same psychological designs used in gambling.

Online predators on Roblox / How easy is it to fake your identity on Roblox?

a young teen playing Roblox on a tablet

To introduce the second distressing aspect of Roblox, we’d like to share the experience of one of our team members. Below is his story:

“I’d like to rewind when I was 12. At the time, I wasn’t allowed to play games online. But my best friend, who is still my best friend – you’ll probably recognize him from our other video content – played this online game called Runescape. I decided to go behind my parents’ back (don’t do this, kids) and make an account. At the time, it was a pretty common thing to walk around the starting town and type “looking for gf” or “looking for bf.” My friend and I quickly used this to our advantage by making female characters and swindling people who were “looking for a girlfriend” out of their stuff.

My mom eventually found out; I got into huge trouble, and I’m happy to say we’re both been long reformed from our catfishing ways. But the significance of this story is two-fold: it was easy for me to access the game without my parents’ permission, and it was easy for me to pretend to be someone I’m not. Even today, with games like Roblox, it’s extremely easy for anyone—of whatever age, and for whatever purpose—to pretend to be “just another kid.” And Roblox’s social systems and design doesn’t help. The default settings in Roblox are the least safe, allowing new accounts to message – and be messaged by – anyone, and there’s no real way to verify the age of users.”

Of course, some – if not most – players will play Roblox and never encounter any of these negative aspects, but taking into account the average age of Roblox’s playerbase, it’s important to recognize and call out how easily the platform provides inlets for bad-actors to access these younger demographics, giving them a footing to take the relationship beyond Roblox, and into spaces with even less moderation like Discord or Instagram.

How Roblox is addressing safety concerns

All of this together is big reason why The National Center on Sexual Exploitation put Roblox on their “Dirty Dozen List,” a list of popular companies that are “facilitating, enabling, and even profiting from sexual abuse and exploitation.” We reached out to The National Center on Sexual Exploitation and asked about Roblox. They reiterated “There is highly inappropriate content on Roblox that kids can easily access even with the parental controls turned on.” And it seems that Roblox has not yet taken action in response to this criticism, as The National Center on Sexual Exploitation told us “Unfortunately, we have not seen any progress around child safety at Roblox since they were placed on the Dirty Dozen List… And while many companies do respond to us – and take us up on our offer to meet in order to work on solutions together – Roblox has ignored our multiple outreach attempts.”

The Bottom Line

We’ve covered a lot in this article, but it’s worth saying again: many players never have any problems with any of the things we’ve talked about. Still, as caring adults, it’s important to be aware these risks exist, and use the wisdom and discernment that God has given us to set and encourage healthy boundaries for the young people we care about. We’ll leave with Paul’s encouragement to the Church of Philippi, “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,  filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”

At Axis, we care about parents and caring adults engaging in meaningful conversations with the next generation. With that in mind, here’s two questions to help start that conversation: How can you know whether someone actually is who they claim to be online? Have you ever had anything weird happen to you on Roblox?

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