(NEW YORK) — Over 54 million users play Roblox, a popular multiplayer online game, every day and nearly half of them are under the age of 13, according to the company. At first glance, it may seem cartoonish and harmless but one watchdog group is sounding the alarm about inappropriate content in the game.
Roblox is promoted as a game that “brings people together through play,” where kids can get creative and build their own worlds and games and share them with others virtually.
However, the nonprofit group Common Sense Media says it can be easy for kids to stumble onto content that is sexual, racist, homophobic or anti-Semitic in nature.
Bennett, 9, told ABC News’ Good Morning America he discovered such content unintentionally while playing on Roblox two years ago.
“I found this random game … and I heard a bad song and a bad picture,” the boy recalled.
Bennett’s father Bryan said he still remembers when his son spoke up and showed him what he had found.
“I’ll never forget how he kind of leaned over and handed me the iPad and he goes, ‘Dad, you know, something doesn’t look right,"” Bryan told GMA.
The graphic Bennett had found — one of a woman’s rear end in a thong — appeared even though his Roblox account had age restrictions in place.
“I enabled the account restrictions which, according to Roblox, meant that my son would not be able to play any games that weren’t specifically curated and deemed appropriate by Roblox,” Bryan said, adding that he found additional inappropriate content on Roblox after the first incident.
Roblox told ABC News that Bennett’s experience isn’t common and the company has improved its moderation systems since 2020 and that the company takes steps to prioritize children’s safety.
“These types of experiences are not reflective of the Roblox platform and are in clear violation of our Community Standards,” the corporation said in a statement. “The safety of our community, especially children, is our top priority. We have strong systems and protocols in place to ensure these types of experiences are swiftly removed within minutes whenever bad actors attempt to circumvent our rules and that the possibility children would ever come across this content remains extremely low. We’re continually working hard to ensure people of all ages have a positive and safe experience on our platform.”
Oftentimes, inappropriate content appearing on Roblox is uploaded by independent users and isn’t listed or promoted by Roblox, according to the company. Roblox said the inappropriate content is promoted in users’ profiles or on social media platforms like Discord or TikTok. Roblox moderators take down such games and rooms when they’re discovered but because the gaming platform is so expansive, they can’t keep up with the sheer amount of content getting created constantly.
“A lot of it does wind up getting pulled down when it’s found. But it can easily be re-uploaded within a matter of seconds,” Jeff Haynes, a senior editor of video games and websites at Common Sense Media, explained.
Common Sense Media rates Roblox as age appropriate for children 13 and over but it does note that the gaming platform has “continuing challenges with problematic content.” For younger children, the group said it’s “potentially OK” as long as “account restrictions are turned on and parents pay close attention to their kids’ activities.”
Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.