As I wrote this column, the Roblox servers had been down for about two days. Why do I know this? I know because all three of my children were expressing their discontentment almost hourly. It’s painful, but I’m not alone. My social media feeds were sprinkled with parents who were experiencing similar Roblox complaints in their homes. I was aware that Roblox was popular, but the amount of buzz generated by the outage opened my eyes about its popularity. This month we take a deep dive into Roblox and touch on some key points for parents with this online venue.
What exactly is Roblox?
Parents need to understand that Roblox is a platform, like Xbox or PlayStation, rather than an actual game. Kids will say, “I’m playing Roblox.” It’s the equivalent of saying, “I’m playing Nintendo.”
According to Backlink, a social media consulting firm, there are over 43 million active daily players on the Roblox platform. The platform received a massive expansion during the pandemic, surging by almost 40% growth after many states implemented a lockdown.
Similar in size to the number of players, there are over 40 million games inside the Roblox universe, most of which have been made by Roblox players themselves. Compared to a traditional gaming console, the graphics and concepts for these games are very basic. They have a block-based feel to them, similar to Minecraft or Lego bricks. Popular games include “Adopt Me” (you collect various rare pets), “Bee Swarm Simulator” (you grow and maintain your swarm of bees), and “Jailbreak” (you escape from different kinds of jail).
Roblox is massively popular among kids ages 5 to 12, but it is not really about the catalog of games. Instead, the popularity comes from the community of players and the digital socialization with that community. The platform itself is free to play. Roblox is compatible with Xbox, PlayStation, Switch, PC, smartphones, and tablets. Roblox provides a fun place for kids to hang out, play games, and chat with other players from all over the world.
How much does Roblox cost?
Players can purchase Robux with real money via the Roblox website or through a gift card. Roblox has in-game currency used to redeem a variety of items: In-game items include virtual upgrades for your avatar, a rare creature or pet, and special character abilities. The site also offers a subscription-based service that delivers Robux to a player’s account every month. The subscription model gives players additional Robux as compared to buying them individually. For example, $4.99 will purchase 400 Robux through a gift card, while the monthly subscription gives you 440 Roblox for the same price.
Roblox is a relatively safe space for children. If you Google “parental concerns with Roblox,” you will find stories about incidents that have happened related to the game. With 43 million players, there are bound to be some unwanted interactions. However, the majority of kids and parents report a positive experience with the game. Let’s look at the aspects of Roblox that parents should know:
- Violence – Many user-created games include weapons such as guns, rocket launchers, or knives. There are also games with horror or creepy themes; however, the block style graphics make for limited violence for young eyes.
- Sexualized Content – Any platform with user-created content carries an uncertainty of what could be allowed into the game. There are times in the chat when players may say something inappropriate. I’ve read about a few instances where inappropriate sounds have been heard as well. In my experience, Roblox does not have much in the way of sexualized content. The site recently updated its terms to include removing anything depicting romance in the game.
- Language – The concern for parents in Roblox is chatting. Players can speak in a common chat for all to see and can also message players directly. Some games, like “Meep City,” include chat rooms for those players in the room. Adults should turn on some parental controls to prevent players from using or seeing profanity. It also prevents players from providing any personal information.
- Bullying – If a group of players is bothering someone, that player can choose a different game to play or block the players on chat.
- Spending Money – Roblox encourages players to purchase in-game currency to receive various upgrades. Parents should consider setting spending limits, password-protecting transactions, or turning off in-game transactions altogether to prevent players from accidentally spending real world money. Guardians can find all of these settings in the parental controls portion of Roblox.
Roblox automatically sets more restrictions for players under 12. Parents should check to ensure these settings are correctly set, especially for younger players.
- Log into their account.
- Go to Account Settings (click on the gear icon)
- Select Privacy.
- Review the options under Contact Settings and Other Settings. Select No one or Friends or enable Account Restrictions (players age 13 and older have additional options.)
Aside from the content settings, ask them questions about the games they are playing. Questions like “Who are you playing with?”, “What’s your favorite game here? Why?” and “Can you tell me more about that?” will encourage your children to share their experiences. In addition, parents should have an ongoing conversation with their kids about talking with strangers online. The best thing parents can do to keep their children safe online is to stay engaged with what their kids are doing on these apps, games, and websites.