Thursday, 1 February 2018

Roblox - is it safe for kids.

Originally published Feb 2016
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There has been some disturbing news reports out today regarding the safety of ROBLOX. It's described as a 'Minecraft-like' game where you can explore and create a place to live and meet new friends. Iain Morrison said he played it with his 8 year old Son for only 15 minutes before inappropriate messages started appearing on screen. This alerted me not only as a parent of two young girls, but also someone who works educating kids in online safety. And kids have asked me if I knew about the game, it's popularity can't be denied.
After some investigating I have to admit, it does appear to be unsafe for children. Lets cut to the chase. I wouldn't let my kids roam free on it. Let me explain why.
According to the company's parent guide, Roblox is safe for those under 12 because the chat is limited to just their friends. See below....

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However, I signed up with a birthday in 2009, (thus making me 7 and a half), but the chat was open, completely visible from the moment I started playing. While expletives or censored words, were blanked out with hashtags (and there were a lot of them) there was nothing to stop me sending a message to anyone else playing the game, people who I had no idea who they were. 
In the world I entered, there were houses on one side and a 'playground' on the other. Players were free to wander in and out of 'most' houses, and into strangers rooms. Within a few minutes aplayer had asked me to 'follow them' to their house. Which was just plain odd.
In addition, there was a 'party portal' which allowed the player to go and join in with parties with curious titles, like "adults only", "Nex in here" (unimaginative code?).
In the parties, there were players sharing baths, people watching other players sleep and just general oddness. After reading the reports I have to admit, it did feel a quite creepy. 
The last observation was the comment from another party, from a player I didn't know, (bear in mind I'm playing this as a 7 and a half year old) which said 
"we need some adult girls in here"! (see below).

With this information I'd seen enough, the company don't stick to their promise of only allowing players to communicate with other players that they know. The open world is too free for anyone to enter and the habits of the players online, is suspicious to say the least. I would advise all parents to remove it from their Children's devices and stick to Minecraft, with users whose identity can be confirmed (or play over a wireless LAN). You just can't beat time with your trusted School mates or your parents.

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Nothing to stop users adding anyone they like as a friend. (Not that it makes much difference).

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 Party goers enjoying a bath together.


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 Top right, the open chat world, with the phrase last blue comment - "We need adult girls".

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Weird adoption messages cropped up frequently and players asking you to follow them to their house.


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 'come my dad' and ##### censored expletives. More 'adopt me'' messages.
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Whilst it's true there was nothing to see that could be deemed offensive (all of the players were clothed lego-like stick people), and I didn't put the game to test about protecting my privacy, ensuring my identity was kept secret. My children and I find it easy to believe that Iain Morrison's experience was much worse than mine. After such a short, short time exploring the game, I'd seen enough to raise some serious concerns about the environment that it has created. Not recommended at all.

Would I stop my kids playing it. Yes, I think I would.