Early last year my son discovered Roblox, a game you play on the PC. His cousins were playing it and he wanted to try it. He’s not new to gaming, he’s been playing since he was 2 on my phone (Angry Birds), then progressed to Minecraft on the Xbox 360 and other games. He’s always looking for new games to play and he watches gamers on YouTube, getting ideas from them too. His heroes – Dan TDM, Stampy etc., all play Roblox. I had to research into the safer child friendly youtubers for him to watch when he started after a couple of disasters when we heard swearing on a couple of videos.
I let him try playing Roblox and create a free account and it’s proven so addictive I now have to fight him for the laptop. I’ve kept a close eye on it, and to be honest, the jury is still out. I haven’t come accross solid enough evidence to ban him from playing, but I wish he didn’t love it so much. It seems to cause lots of arguments between him and I, not just over who wants the laptop, but over when and how much he plays. When it’s bedtime, getting dressed time or leaving the house time (the bane of any parent’s life), he seems to find excuses, always wants to wait one more second, achieve the next level, it’s endless. A lot of the minigames you can’t save progress so when we turn it off it’s lost.
What is Roblox?
It’s an online community and gaming platform, with mini games made by the community. It looks very much like minecraft, but it’s different, and the players are online. Commonly there are several types of games: Tycoon, where the aim is to make the most money; Design, where you make the coolest outfit on your avatar (be warned it’s subjective, William was getting upset when he didn’t win and we had to talk to him about it); Battle and puzzle games. Popular culture is often woven into games like Harry Potter, Monsters Inc, Pokemon.
Is it safe?
First of all, the download is safe, there haven’t been any reported problems of malware on computers from downloading the Roblox software. Make sure you’re on the official site, Roblox.com and you’ll be fine. Like anything online, there is always a danger, but Roblox do have certain safety measures in place, and they do act on reports of misconduct. If you register your child with their date of birth, any child under 13 will have restrictions on types of words that can be displayed on the chat, they’ll come up as ####. Swear words are blocked regardless of age. There is whitlelisted chat that only allows certain words through. The chat box is on the top left of the screen. My son mostly ignores it unless he’s playing a game like the Harry Potter battles, where you type in spells and then they become an action, like we used to do in adventure games.
Be cautious – there are ways hackers can get in and create inappropriate games, but they are reported quickly and taken down. There have been some reports of sounds or explicit visual images popping up in games – this is where something has either slipped through roblox censors (people who manually go through every audio and every image) or there is a “hacker” or “exploiter” who has purposefully messed up the gaming experience of others. These are very rare and Roblox is usually very good at fixing these problems. It is your duty to report anything suspicious to the site. Minimise risks on any platform by having parental controls, and teach internet safety. It’s sad that we have to do this for our children, but I’d rather make them aware rather than discover someone is trying to groom them or bully them. Make sure they’re playing in the same room as you, and every once in a while take a look at the screen. Talk to them about the game, what they like, is there anything you don’t like, do you talk to anyone. Play it with them, create your own account and play online with them like you would a board game with them, or sit with them and play along.
What’s the cost?
Registering is free, but there are of course, opt ins to pay for. You can sign up for builder’s club, which enables the user to join more groups and create groups. Groups are probably for the older child, over 12 so they can understand the chat. There are Ro-nations with their own micro-communities. You also get robux (the Roblox currency) daily. There are 3 different levels of membership. Classic at $5.95/month or $57.95 annually; Turbo at $11.95/month or $85.95 annually; Outrageous at $19.95/ month or $129.95 annually. You also get to go ad free. You can buy Robux too. I recently saw Roblox gift cards in Tesco, so it’s here to stay. We’re currently on the free membership. Beware like most things, once you sign up for membership it auto renews.
The Child’s perspective of Roblox
I asked William some questions which have been worrying me and to get an insight into his world. He’s 7 and in year 3 at school.
Why do you like playing Roblox?
I love the games
Has anyone ever messaged you?
Have you ever seen any swearwords?
Have you ever been scared by anything on Roblox?
One time there was a Halloween game and the elevator was all dark – that was a bit scary!
Well, I’m reassured, certainly from his point of view. He’s had a few friend requests which he’s ignored, and as I mentioned above he doesn’t get involved in any chat, plus I’ve educated him (to some extent) about how adults can pretend to be children and want to get in touch. He has another real life friend who plays and they know each other’s gamer tag but so far haven’t managed to meet online.
This is where you can create and script games and learn about the community. I’ve said to William when we have a day or an afternoon together either me or his Dad will spend some time exploring it together, because I think learning to code will always come in handy. If you make a game that gets 10000 visits that is an amazing achievement.
ODing (Online Dating)
When I heard about this on Roblox (thanks mumsnet forums), I thought it meant that people chatted online and got together, or something very similar. Wrong! People will chat obviously, but it’s actually between Roblox characters, and often stays within the parameters of the game. I’d discourage it anyway as I think it’s a bit icky. I’d keep away from allowing Skype or other camera based messaging. Again, keep the gaming in the same room as you or close to hand. Addresses and phone numbers are censored on Roblox, as are insults. The majority of the Roblox community frowns upon Online Dating especially long term users.
Are there any benefits to playing Roblox?
I do think there are some benefits. It can be a good learning experience. Kids can learn about business, sticking to a budget and buying/selling from the Tycoon games, they learn how to create games with the easy to find and very detailed game creation tutorials and scripting tutorials, putting them on the path to learning programming languages (The one used in this site is called ROBLOX). They learn how to spell and type – my son is constantly asking me how to spell things he needs to input and I make sure it sticks.
I have been close to banning it at times and I remain cautious, but I’m satisfied about the safety measures the site has in place, together with my own measures I inflict and I will keep talking to my son so I feel involved. I restrict it to certain times and limit his screen time. I only let him play now on the condition that he doesn’t argue with me when it’s time to stop.
Do you play Roblox? Does your child play Roblox? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below, I love to hear from you.
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