If you’re a parent of a child who plays on screens, you might be familiar with the online game "Roblox." A user-generated online gaming platform, Roblox allows users to create “worlds” and avatars that interact with each other. And while parents can adjust security settings, the avatars can still virtually interact with each other.
One mom and daughter found this out the hard way.
Amber Petersen, mom to a 7-year-old daughter, had an experience with the game that will leave you questioning if anything can ever truly be “safe” in an online platform where children are involved.
Petersen explained in a Facebook post that she and her husband let their daughter get the game, but they set the security to “maximum privacy.” Petersen also made sure to monitor her daughter while she played. But on one particular morning, her daughter stopped playing to show her mom the screen.
“At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” Petersen wrote. “My sweet and innocent daughter’s avatar was being violently gang-raped on a playground by two males. A female observer approached them and proceeded to jump on her body at the end of the act. Then the three characters ran away, leaving my daughter’s avatar lying on her face in the middle of the playground.”
Petersen shared the post, complete with very graphic screenshots, of the horrifying incident that occurred while her daughter played the game. The post quickly went viral, with other concerned parents sharing similar incidents that have happened and issuing warnings about the safety of online platforms for children. Eventually, Petersen updated her post, noting that "Roblox" had issued an official response to their situation:
“We were outraged to learn that Roblox's community policies and Rules of Conduct were subverted. We have identified how this bad actor created the offending action and are putting additional safeguards in place to reduce the possibility of this happening again in the future. In addition, the offender was identified and has been permanently banned from the platform and we have suspended the game. We have zero tolerance for this behavior. Our work to ensure a safe platform is always evolving and remains a top priority for us.”
Despite assurance from "Roblox," the incident has left Petersen questioning how important screens are to her family.
“After what just took place this morning, I’m actually questioning whether or not I should allow my precious 7-year-old daughter to have access to a screen ever again,” she explained. “Parents/Caregivers ... I urge you to take another look at the security settings on all of your devices and closely supervise your child if you allow them to continue playing games with online platforms such as Roblox. Better yet, perhaps you can join me in taking the rest of this summer to challenge your child to put away their screens ... and read!!! Books cannot be hacked, but sadly, I’ve learned the hard way that a child’s innocence can be just at the touch of a button.”
That said, now would be a good time to check those security settings.