Roblox has quickly become the video game choice du jour, and more than half of American kids under the age of 16 played it in 2020. But what do parents need to know about the game?
Roblox is an online platform and storefront — think of it as an app store — where the games are all made by other users. Much of the content is free, but just like with games on your tablet or phone, there’s a push to get you to spend real money on upgrades, greater access and additional items. For Roblox, this comes in the form of Robux (think V-Bucks if you’re familiar with "Fortnite"), and this is what your kids will be pestering you to buy more of. More on that later.
Is it violent?
To start with, there isn’t anything objectionable about the games, content-wise. They generally have the look and feel of "Minecraft," and even the ones with shooting are more Pew! Pew! (that’s me attempting to make fun laser noises) and less “Hey Mom, watch this guy bleed out.” Many offerings are knock-offs of what’s popular elsewhere. So, you can find versions of "Among Us" and other group puzzlers that can be quite clever in their execution.
When you set up your Roblox account, click on the account settings and select privacy. Here, you can adjust your parental controls. Be sure to enable account restrictions and then create a parental PIN to set limits on chat, filter ages for objectionable language, and control who gets access to the profile. Then, when your child finishes setting up their personal profile, doublecheck it to make sure they’re not sharing too much. If you have any questions about any of this, there are lots of helpful hints online as well as videos walking you through the entire process on Youtube. Even after all this, check in with your kids from time to time, especially as they get started, so you can keep an eye on things. We’ve got our monitor set up in a corner so that we can see what’s on the screen from anywhere in the room.
Your kids will probably just want to play the games. But they might be curious about designing their own. For developing, the game is like a crash course in coding and can (with some helpful YouTube videos or on the Roblox DevHub) be an amazing learning opportunity. Your child might be thinking they can make money developing their own games. Some people do make money doing this, but so much content is being generated that it’s difficult to stand out. Make this clear to your kids so they understand that it is unlikely that they will make any real money — but they might be able to earn small amounts of Robux they can use to play other games.
The money issue
Robux is how the company makes money, and it’s also what your kids will be begging you for. It’s the in-game currency (as of this writing, $10 gets you 800 Robux) that operates like the microtransactions in the iOS games you might play on your phone. Most games have free-to-play elements and then try to charge a few Robux to play additional rounds or to pay for new levels. If your kids are clamoring for more Robux, there’s a good opportunity here to teach them about money. My crew has to decide how much of their allowance they want to spend on video games and weigh that against other things they’re interested in. I also like to have my kids repay me for their video game purchases in cash to make them aware that these things cost actual money — something game developers are desperately trying to hide with their use of in-game currency. If your kids do seem set on spending money on the game, look into the monthly membership options on offer to get more bang for your buck.
In a nutshell, Roblox is pretty much just another gaming platform, albeit one with millions of choices. Be sure to set limits, and check in on your child’s activities periodically so you know what they’re up to. If you don’t understand what they’re doing, or something they want to buy, just do an online search. There are plenty of other parents looking for the same answers you are and sharing what they find.
And if your kids do end up trying to code their own projects with Roblox Studio (which is free to use and pretty cool), consider giving them some extra time with it. It’s a neat chance to use video games to learn a new life skill.