Experts, users warn against inappropriate content
Users of the popular online platform Roblox claim that while the games’ bright colors and blocky avatars may seem child-friendly, there are parts of the platform that are far from suitable for children.
Briona Thoms, 17, is among the 43 million people who use Roblox. She told TODAY that she stumbled upon an NSFW corner of the gaming platform, which allows people to play and create their own games.
âIt looked like a room I joined in,â Thoms said. “And then I saw morphs on the side, so I was like ‘Oh, I could be like a dog or something’, then I clicked on it and it said like male and female, then as soon as i clicked on female it had like their breasts and everything, but they’re naked. “
Thoms described accidentally joining a virtual strip club on Roblox. Digital spaces, also known as’ condo games’ or ‘scent games’, are user-created X-rated digital experiences where players can remove their avatars’ clothes, have them fake obscene acts, and even accessorize them with clothes. adult toys.
Thoms said she found these spaces “disgusting” because “small children could stumble upon them.”
âI don’t think a parent wants to have this conversation when their child is 5 or 6,â Thoms said. Thoms said she immediately told her mother Tracie what she found.
âI was appalled. I couldn’t believe it,â said Thoms.
By Roblox community standards, the site “does not allow any sexual content or activity of any kind.” Roblox told NBC News they don’t think âcondo gamesâ are prevalent due to the strict security system that helps monitor the platform.
“In the rare event that we find or are directed to people or content breaking our rules, our moderators will promptly remove it and take other aggressive action,” Roblox said in a statement provided to NBC News. “It is misleading to suggest that such isolated cases reflect Roblox’s family experience.”
While the platform can quickly remove inappropriate content, experts say it can be difficult to keep pace.
âThis is basically a Whack-a-Mole game, where every time they try to remove one or two different games, 12 to 20 reappear in a matter of minutes,â said Jeff Haynes, editor. of the video. games at Common Sense Media.
Haynes said those who seek to act inappropriately on the site are constantly finding new ways to bypass moderation systems. One method is to offer an online currency, known as Robux, which can be used in the game.
âThere areâ¦ many reports where predators have suggested Robux kids try a game, check out this site,â Haynes said.
Roblox said it has “zero tolerance” for predatory behavior and “especially monitor and block chat behavior that indicates an attempt to remove a player from (the) platform.”
But Roblox users say social media makes “condo games” easy to find.
âThere will usually be these short, quick videos that will grab your attention. They will say, ‘Oh, join this game on this link, and it will be hidden under a different name. It will be called as “dog training.” This is what you would call the ‘condo game’, âsaid Alex, 17, who asked that his last name not be used out of fear for his safety. He and his friend David, who has also requested that his last name not be released, maintain an important Twitter account for Roblox news.
David added that these videos will mask the name and appearance of a room where the “condo game” is being played “just to trick the moderation system, so Roblox will take longer to find the needle in the boot. hay “.
Thoms, the 17-year-old who accidentally fell into one of these rooms, has shown TODAY how easy it is to find timeshare games using a third-party chat platform. Once inside the room, she was able to remove her avatar’s clothes and noticed that other avatars were following her.
âIt’s not a good place,â Thoms said of the timeshare game. TODAY was unable to show much of the room’s content due to its self-explanatory nature.
The potential for explicit content doesn’t mean parents should write off the popular gaming site altogether. Instead, adults should make sure they keep tabs on what their children are playing and doing.
TODAY offered expert advice on how parents can keep their kids safe on Roblox:
- Learn more about Roblox: Sitting down with your child and understanding the game they’re playing can help you understand how the game works and let you know what’s wrong.
- Disable the chat feature: If you get rid of the chat feature in the game, it will be much more difficult for a stranger and a potential predator to connect with your child. Roblox already prohibits users from sending images and videos in one-on-one interactions and blocks phone numbers sent to or from players under the age of 13.
- Protect your safety settings: In Roblox, you can set a pin that prevents your child from turning off your safety settings.
- Stay aware: It can help to make sure your child connects to the internet in a room where you can see and hear what is going on, and not behind a closed door.
- Communicate with your child: most importantly, make sure your child feels safe and comfortable coming to you if they see something inappropriate, and stress that they will not be in trouble if they do. it alerts you if something is wrong.
âBring back what you see; come see mom and dad,â said Tracie Thoms, Briona’s mom. “The kids are so young, but the kids are a lot smarter than what we think they are too, so I hope they are doing the right thing and I hope the parents are doing the right thing too.”