On 15 February 2017, Hull Daily Mail reported a father's claims about the massively multiplayer online social gaming platform (MMORPG) Roblox, purported dangers later aggregated by news sources in the U.S. and Australia.
According to the first article, Hull resident Iain Morrison maintained that he discovered the game was being used by pedophiles after purportedly locating messages of an indecent nature in his child's account:
A horrified father has issued a warning to other parents after his eight-year-old son was sent indecent messages from strangers on popular online game Roblox.
The "sickening" messages asking personal questions and encouraging him to imitate sexual acts in virtual bedrooms were sent on the Roblox game.
Iain Morrison, 33, from Hull, was shocked to see the messages pop up within 15 minutes of starting up his son's IPad when he decided to have a look at the "seemingly innocent" game after reading an article about it online.
The former Hull KR player said he believes the game - dubbed the new Minecraft which is aimed at children aged between eight and 12 years old - is being used by adults looking to meet up with children.
Like similar warnings in the news, Morrison's began as a Facebook status post. The very first comment in that thread was made by a user who pointed out that the purported issue Morrison was warning about was easily avoided:
Morrison didn't say why he believed Roblox posed a danger not present in other popular children's MMORPGs, opining only that he "had it in his head" the game might be risky. He asserted that when he investigated his suspicions by "playing" Roblox, his fears were confirmed:
He said: "I just had it in my head that I needed to ask the boys if they were playing on this Roblox game after reading about it online.
"They said they had it so I've said let me have a look at it. From the outlook it looks completely fine, you can go into different rooms and in the first room I wasn't sent anything untoward.
"Then I went in this waterslide room with a pool and immediately was propositioned. They said 'hi' so I said 'hi' and they asked if I was a boy or girl and my age so I said I was an eight-year-old boy.
"They asked me to follow them to their house, then into the bedroom and asked me to lay down on top of them and then they started with the sexual movements.
"They said 'you look cute' and 'you look sexy'. It was just sickening reading all the comments pop up. My kids were completely oblivious as to what the words and stuff meant."
It looked as if Roblox safety concerns were primarily speculative in nature until late January 2017. There was little indication parents had previously asserted Roblox was a risk to children, and many apps include player-to-player messaging features (controls which are sometimes circumvented, a circumstance in no way unique to Roblox). All platforms with messaging enabled carry identical "risks," and a similar panic occurred when a mother believed Minecraft was rife with "sex mods." But just before Morrison "got it in his head" Roblox was unsafe, another parent claimed Roblox was dangerous, declaring that her six-year-old child was messaged inappropriate content.
Like many games popular among children, Roblox proactively activates content filters based on user age. Roblox not only automatically applies such controls for users under 13, but it maintains features allowing parents to view comprehensive account history and interactions. According to a Roblox security guide, potentially inappropriate content is filtered for children by default, and parents can see any and all content to which their children are exposed should they choose to do so:
Roblox is a great place to play fun games, express creativity and engage with friends and other members of the community. As a result of this, we are visited by many great developers and players from various age groups and we strive to make this a safe and fun place for all of them. To aid in this process, we provide our users with a number of privacy settings and age-appropriate chat modes.
Players age 12 and younger have locked privacy settings to prevent contact from people they don't know. These players must first become friends with another user before certain activities are allowed, such as messaging, following into game, and playing in private servers.
Players age 12 and younger have their posts and chats filtered both for inappropriate content and behavior, and to prevent personal information from being posted. Players age 13 and older are on a less restrictive filter than the younger players, but inappropriate content is still strictly prohibited. These filters cover all areas of communication on Roblox, public and private.
As a Parent, How Can I See What My Children Are Doing on Roblox?
Roblox does have several ways to see the history for certain account activities. When logged in, you can view the following histories from their related sections:
Creations such as games, items, sounds, ads...etc (Develop)
Private message history (Messages)
Friends and Followers (Friends)
Virtual item purchase and trade history (Trade)
We located no information suggesting Roblox was any less safe for children than other similar apps, or that it was overrun with individuals propositioning children. By default, Roblox employs controls for users under the age of 13 and features a robust set of functions enabling parents to closely monitor their children's Roblox activity at all times.
Roblox's player-to-player chat is not the only platform for users to interact in a multiplayer game app, and nothing suggests it is particularly risky for children to use. Parental controls in Roblox only work when parents hold up their end of the requirementa by using them, and concerned mothers and fathers can easily monitor all in-game activity to root out questionable interactions or behavior.
We contacted Roblox about the rumors, but have not yet received a response.