Chances are, if your kid likes computer games, they’re one of Roblox’s 43 million daily users, or have at least checked the game out. Of course, as with anything online, this may have made you wonder: Is Roblox safe for kids? In this guide, we’ll give our take and explain what to look out for when your child regularly plays it.
- Roblox is a massive gaming platform where kids can make and play games.
- Roblox shares revenue with players, but only under punitive conditions.
- Roblox’s moderation functions also leave much to be desired, leaving children open to all manner of unwanted content.
The short answer is that if you want to protect your kids online, you may want to have a talk with them about Roblox. Though the games themselves are usually innocent enough, there are a lot of missing measures when it comes to the moderation of communications between players.
There are also some very serious issues with how Roblox makes its money. For one, it lets children take part in an unregulated stock market for in-game assets, while also shortchanging kids who develop Roblox games. Though Roblox may look bubbly and bright, a lot of darkness lurks beneath.
Roblox’s safety record isn’t great, so letting your kid play on the platform may open them up to threats like child predators.
Most users are under 13, though older users can be found on the platform as well.
Roblox has some highly exploitative business practices, while also providing poor moderation.
What Is Roblox & Is Roblox Safe for Kids?
Before we get to the issues that plague Roblox, let’s first go over what it is. The short version is that Roblox is a game made up of other games — millions of them, in fact. As such, it’s more of a platform than anything else.
Roblox players thus don’t play a game called Roblox. Instead, they can choose from any of 40 million games (called “experiences”) to play, ranging from small, minute-long adventures to more complicated multiplayer affairs. None of these 40 million games are made by Roblox, though: The developers instead are Roblox’s players themselves.
In fact, it’s a big part of Roblox’s advertising. One of its main slogans is “powering imagination,” and on many of its publicity pages it makes much of the way it encourages its users to create. For example, on its “parents” page it claims that “types of gameplay on Roblox are just as limitless as the imagination of the creators themselves.”
Roblox users aren’t enticed into making games for the platform just for the fun of it, either. Roblox makes its money mostly through the sale of in-game currency and advertising, and then shares the profits it makes with game creators. Considering how many active users there are, this can rack up quite quickly — at least on paper.
It’s no wonder, then, that there are professional Roblox creators — some of them even forming studios — and there are special code camps for kids who want to learn how to make games in Roblox. Though there are still plenty of kids making games in their bedrooms, many of Roblox’s bigger titles are made by pros, or at least semi-pros.
The upshot of all this for the company is that business is booming. Its third-quarter results for 2021 — the latest quarter we had access to at time of writing — were excellent, with over $500 million in revenue. Maybe Roblox started out as a cool little platform where kids can make small games and have fun, but it’s long since turned into a money-making machine.
Roblox Games and Developers
As a platform aimed at kids — more than half of players are under 13, according to data gathered by Statista — Roblox projects a very child-friendly image, with use of bright colors and simple language. However, the way it goes about its business is a lot less gentle.
Roblox Users By Age
Getting started with making your own games with Roblox Studio is relatively simple and even younger children should be able to get the hang of it quickly. It’s pretty much drag-and-drop all the way, though some simple logic also comes into play when scripting actions. When it comes to programming, it’s a pretty friendly way for kids to get acquainted with it.
However, it’s not just about kids making games: Roblox also very much entices younger players with making cold, hard cash. This excellent story from People Make Games goes into a lot of detail, but in short children are encouraged from the get-go to make games on Roblox for the purpose of making money (though since that video has come out Roblox has softened this aspect of its marketing).
What you earn is based on how many people play your game, so more is better here. That said, the percentage earned by creators is a joke. According to People Make Games, the slice developers get is usually in the single digits, which doesn’t seem very fair, to say the least.
For some parents this may be questionable enough — after all, kids should create for the joy of creation, not because of the draw of filthy lucre — but even if you’re on the fence, Roblox terms are shocking.
Paying the Piper
For one, the promised money is all in Robux, Roblox’s own in-game currency, which you can use to buy new assets for your games, or even to deck out your in-game character. It’s a nice reward for a kid making a simple game, but a far cry from the oodles of money Roblox promises you can make.
To break out of this self-sustaining economy, you need to exchange Robux into real currency — with the minimum withdrawal being 100,000 Robux. Robux of course controls the exchange rate, and it’s deeply disadvantageous to users: When you buy 100,000 Robux from Roblox, it costs you $1,000 in real-world money.
When you sell your Robux to Roblox, though, 100,000 only gets you $350, or one-third of what you bought it for. That’s a nasty surprise indeed, considering the hard work you need to put in.
This is ridiculously unfair of course, and shows off the massive imbalance of power between a platform like Roblox and the people who develop games for it. However, Roblox goes out of its way to abuse its power. In comparison, Steam also has a minimum withdrawal amount, but it’s just $100. Also, all accounting is in real money, not in made-up exploitation bucks.
That said, as People Make Games points out, getting to 100,000 Robux is near to impossible for most Roblox developers. Though it’s hard on any platform to get noticed when you’re only just starting out, Roblox seems to especially favor already popular games, while also selling the top slots to those who pay extra for the privilege. This makes it very hard for a kid working from his bedroom — and remember, most Roblox devs are kids — to get any traction.
As such, small studios have popped up to make games and some of them treat their staff pretty poorly. The reports People Make Games gathered (like above) aren’t very different from those you hear about from the grown-up games industry, with kids coding overtime and the like. It’s pretty heartbreaking to hear an 11-year-old talk about being burned out from crunch.
When reacting to the People Make Games video, Roblox downplayed many of the concerns raised in the investigation. However, some changes seem to have been made to the Roblox website — mainly removing the money-making aspect of creation — and advertising seems to focus more on the fun kids can have with Roblox rather than making games.
Roblox Safety Concerns
Not that just playing Roblox doesn’t come without some concerns. In a follow-up video, People Make Games goes into some of the problems people just playing Roblox games may run into. These can be categorized into two: Roblox’s stock market and moderation.
Chasing That Dollar
Like many games, online or offline, Roblox lets players buy collectibles. These can range from a cool flaming sword to a natty top hat for your character — nothing out of the ordinary. However, a little more uncommonly, Roblox also lets players sell to players and lets users track the prices of these items over time.
If you’re at all familiar with stock tracking, the above graph will look familiar. You can pretty much track price changes over time using these built-in tools, choosing the right moments to buy and sell these digital assets — and some of them go for a lot of money.
Not only could this junior Wall Street be a little worrying for parents who would like to imbue their children with sentiments other than naked greed, there’s also the issue that this stock market is entirely unregulated. Though rule-free exchanges may be the wet dream of libertarians, having your kid run amuck on one with your credit card is a painful reality.
Roblox and Inappropriate Content
Besides facing burnout and financial ruin, kids on Roblox also are potentially at risk for coming in contact with online predators. This is because Roblox has a very unique approach to moderation, to say the least.
In game, the company seems to rely heavily on automated systems to make sure people don’t say anything inappropriate. The problem is that these systems quite simply do not work. This has lead to words like “pill” or “gay” being censored, even when used innocuously, while simulated sex acts seem to be just A-OK, as this CBS article explains.
Out of game, Roblox got rid of all its forums and other forms of communication, probably in a bid to avoid having to moderate them. As a result, much of the talk about Roblox happens wherever, including Discord or even beneath YouTube videos.
As a result, online predators have found it very easy to hound their victims — People Make Games goes into detail on one very young girl’s harrowing experience — and Roblox can wash its hands in innocence as it didn’t happen on any of its platforms. Sure, that’s technically correct, but we find it an awful cynical way to approach a very serious problem.
The online world can be pretty hazardous for anybody and young children especially can easily fall prey. No online organization can guarantee total safety for anybody, but we do find that Roblox’s approach is a bit heartless.
On the one hand, it steps back from many of its responsibilities when it comes to shielding their customers from harassment, sexual or otherwise, while on the other it exploits children’s naivete when it comes to work and money. If your child plays Roblox or makes games for the platform, it may be time to talk to them about all these issues and maybe even look for alternatives.
Sure, plenty of kids go onto Roblox every day and have a good time, but there are better ways to have fun that don’t involve risks like child predators and capitalistic treadmills. If you ask us, it’s probably best if kids stay away from Roblox; there are better games out there, and kids can learn programming skills through Scratch, as well.
What is your opinion of Roblox’s approach to child safety? Do you have any experiences with Roblox? Have you made any games using Roblox Studio tools? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below and, as always, thank you for reading.