Popular children’s online game Roblox is being used by paedophiles as a grooming tool, a horrified mother has warned this week.
Not the first time Roblox has been called ‘a paedophile’s gateway’, this new report just adds to parents’ growing concerns over the game.
The mother said she was physically sick after reading graphic messages discussing rape and pornography on her pre-teen’s computer. She also discovered her son had been manipulated into sending sexually explicit photos of himself to another Roblox “player”.
Parental controls on the game had been turned on, so the mother believed her son could not send messages. However, a third-party app had been installed which allowed her son to communicate with other players.
The mother initially believed her son was simply enjoying an innocent game, one that is hugely popular with children as young as six. When she noticed a change in his behaviour, she grew concerned.
“He would no longer want to join in with family activities he usually enjoyed,” she told the BBC.
“When I checked the third-party app I found they were talking about sexual activities that were pornographic. We came across some pictures. It was horrifying. I was physically sick.
“He’s still in a very bad way. He’s broken, and so are we. It’s life destroying. I’ll never be able to take those pictures and words out of my mind.”
A Roblox spokesperson said its in-game chat had strict filters and any photo exchanges would have been done on a third-party app that is not affiliated with Roblox.
Identifying inappropriate Roblox users
“It’s extremely important to be aware of these chat apps, particularly those with an ‘overlay’ feature making it appear to be part of whatever game is being played,” the spokesperson said.
Players can report disturbing behaviour via the “report abuse system” and inappropriate users may have their accounts deleted. While Roblox can take action if issues are reported to them, children often do not understand that abuse is happening, so no report is made.
However, the mother of the pre-teen says she received no response when she contacted Roblox to ask them how they had “allowed” her child to be groomed.
She informed the police but claims Roblox refused to grant officers access to the IP addresses of the suspected groomers.
“They wouldn’t let our police have anything to do with it because we were in the UK and they are an American company,” she told the BBC.
Not an isolated case
The incident is not the first time Roblox has come under fire for inappropriate content.
One parent reported their child’s avatar being “gang raped” by others before Roblox banned the player.
Meanwhile, a Sydney mother has said her daughter was sexually harassed while playing the game in 2017. She told Channel 9 she became concerned when her daughter started saying things she had no understanding of.
“It was things like, ‘I want to put my penis in your vagina. I want to lick your p—-y. I want to sleep with you’,” she said.
“She started coming out with all of this stuff. I was in a state of shock that these comments were coming out of the mouth of an innocent 10-year-old girl.
“I said to her, ‘where are you getting this from?’ After a while, she admitted to me it was Roblox.”
A police spokesperson said sadly it was not an uncommon scenario for children to be approached by sexual predators via online games.
“Parents should take screenshots or photos of the chat and the user’s profile before blocking them and reporting to police,” the spokesperson said.
With rising concerns about children’s screen obsession, perhaps this is a further prompt that we need to crack down on our kids’ screen time, as well as keep a closer eye on the games they’re playing. Of course, any parent knows this is easier said than done.