For many, video games serve as a form of entertainment and safe space from reality. Gamers can be found among virtually every age group in today’s society. While it’s not uncommon for parents to monitor their children’s online and gaming activity, it’s not unreasonable for parents to expect their children to be safe while playing video games that are supposedly geared toward young players. Unfortunately, one of today’s most popular game sites, Roblox, has become a severe concern among parents and a potentially dangerous place for young gamers.
Roblox skyrocketed to popularity earlier this year due to its one-of-a-kind nature. Roblox is not a game, but rather an online platform on which people can share games that they’ve made with other people. Unlike other major platforms like Steam, Roblox games are entirely made and shared by its users, but none of the games are created by Roblox Corporation. Another significant aspect of Roblox is that users can earn money on the site as well, part of what makes it especially attractive to young gamers.
Despite Roblox’s tremendous success and popularity, it has recently come under fire for putting young gamers at risk of experiencing inappropriate content put in place by online predators. Recent reports complain of children accidentally joining game rooms that are actually online strip clubs in which young gamers are exposed to nudity and other NSFW content and images. These inappropriate experiences are camouflaged by these predators as being normal games in order to attract child gamers. However, once inside the supposed game room, children begin to experience the disturbing content created by online predators.
While these issues within Roblex have recently been covered by major news sources, Roblox has had a history of predatory issues for years. In 2018, Roblox was faced with allegations of players participating in a violent “gang rape” of a seven-year-old girl’s Roblox avator. The parents of this player were particularly upset as they had set the game’s parental settings to the max as a means to protect their daughter. Another incident that occurred earlier in 2018 came to light when the mother of a six-year-old player became enraged when her daughter had been invited to an “online sex room” while playing Roblox. These parents brought their concerns to social media as an attempt to warn other parents, but unfortunately, these issues continue to occur years later during the height of the game’s popularity.
These NSFW games within Roblox are often disguised under names that seem kid-friendly or are similar to other popular games on the platform. These rooms are not usually up for long, with most only lasting a couple of hours before being removed by the platform. However, all it takes is for a young user to experience one of these predatory spin off games for a few minutes to be exposed to highly inappropriate material. While many young users are being harmed by these experiences, other users really are indulging in the dark side of this platform by taking advantage of what it has to offer. In September 2021, a teenage user spoke anonymously with Rolling Stone to discuss her virtual life as a stripper, in which she takes full advantage of the dangerous side of Roblox. Through this virtual stripper lifestyle, the anonymous user explained that she has been able to earn a profit through giving users “virtual lap dances.” Since the currency in Roblox can be converted to actual USD, many users have capitalized off of these dark opportunities.
Roblox Corporation has publicly stated its zero tolerance policy for such predatory and inappropriate content. Roblox claims to monitor the games being uploaded by users and acts swiftly to remove any predatory games that are sneakily uploaded under its radar. The Roblox Community Standards portion of the Roblox website has extensive sections in which it outlines the site’s “Safety” and “Civility and Respect” policies. It’s here that Roblox explicitly states that it “has a zero-tolerance policy for endangering children.” Further, Roblox states that users who fail to abide by these community standards may be subject to enforcement action against their accounts, going as far to threaten the involvement of law enforcement agencies. Regardless of these claims and high standards that Roblox seeks to maintain, it unfortunately continues to be taken advantage of by online predators.
Interestingly enough, despite these heavy claims against Roblox, there don’t appear to be any lawsuits brought against the platform by angry parents. This is in contrast to Fortnite, another extremely popular online game that is not nearly as dangerous for young users, but which has been hit with lawsuits for being an “addictive game” that is as addictive as cocaine. It really isn’t unusual for games to be addictive given their strategically implemented algorithms used to keep players engaged. However, it is very unusual and unreasonable for an online gaming platform that is geared toward young players to allow users to be exposed to pornography and other disturbing content being spread by predators. Perhaps the recent boost in popularity of Roblox and the publicity of these predatory attacks will encourage parents to take a legal stand for their children’s safety.