It has been brought to my attention that Hannah Diaz (found safe over 350 miles away) was on Roblox. What is Roblox? Roblox is an online game geared towards 12 and under. Hannah joined Roblox a year ago, as shown by her Roblox character. How often she played it is not known, but she did have over 400 followers and almost 200 friends. Which leads me to believe that her account was likely not private. I was not familiar with Roblox and have done some research on it.
First, I found that Roblox has become quite popular with 80 million monthly players. The game is much like a combination of Legos and MineCraft. Where in Minecraft you can set the settings so that you do not play online, Roblox is an online game. Roblox came to the attention of media when a parent, Iain Morrison in 2017, complained about being bombarded in chat by “Paedophiles” after signing in. Another incident in 2017 made the news when a parent states her son was “groomed” by a pedaphile, another in North Carolina states their child was Skyping with a person they met on Roblox. Then in 2018, a North Carolina parent states her daughter’s gaming character was “gang raped.”
I also wanted to hear from older teens about the game and a 18-year-old posted on the website, Common Sense Media the most accurate comment that I feel sums it all up:
User-created Clusterfluff (to put it nicely)
“This is from an older sister and a fan of videogames. I’ve played the game myself, and I understand how the moderation works there. This is a game with poor quality and a poor community. It is a clusterfluff (a whirlwind, and dogpile) of both perfectly fine and downright disgusting content. Most areas in ROBLOX are user-created, meaning that there will always, always be pornographic content, cursing, and violence that the moderators just can’t catch as fast as it is put up. Although there are many children online, there are just as many teens and 20-somethings you try to break the rules in order to mess with people and younger or inexperienced players. It’s not safe for anyone under 12, and it’s not a game that has any positive potential for 12 and up, either. My recommendation: there are plenty of other games that are more appropriate for kids out there. Minecraft (only if you know about computers and can safely teach kids how to AVOID the multiplayer component) is a good replacement. Or any console games that don’t allow kids to connect online. Safety first! A good rule of thumb: If they can get on the internet through the game, it is unsafe. Always. Only kids who are taught internet safety, over 13 years of age, and are quite responsible should be messing with others online. It’s not a question of how “good” your kid is, the game’s issue is really a question of a lack of control of what others will do to your kid.”
Whether the people in the Roblox chat room are a group of obnoxious teens or true pedophiles, we do not know positively if Hannah meet someone on Roblox, and went to meet them. What we do know is she is missing.
As far as Roblox, they are aware of the issue with their chat rooms and have moved ahead with a digital civility initiative to improve online safety in March 2019. Roblox states they have 600 human moderators, filters, AI and 3rd party filters to combat the problem. A Roblox representative said that the “kids are smart and they come up with ingenious ways to get around the rules,” as stated in Venturebeat.com.
Check out the video above from 2016 which shows a Roblox Social Experiment.
Snopes did a post on Morrison’s post and stated, “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.”
Currently, on Roblox, you can set the account restrictions so that your child only communicates with vetted friends, but you cannot stop them from friending strangers via the account restrictions. And as kids hear that parents likely won’t allow them to download the game, there will be some that will go behind their backs and download it.
To read parent’s reviews of the game, click here.