The Roblox universe, a gaming platform that is massively popular with children, is largely full of kids meeting up and playing games as angular avatars.
But there’s also a small but problematic community within the online video game, virtual strip clubs where avatars meet for less savory activities. It’s a persistent presence despite attempts to eradicate them from the platform. Here’s what parents need to know.
Here’s How the Roblox Strip Clubs Work
The rooms are advertised on TikTok and Discord servers outside of the platform and out of its control. They are given innocuous names and often deleted within a matter of hours to avoid being found by Roblox moderators.
In the clubs, grainy, heavily pixelated characters participate in rough facsimiles of twerking, lap dances, and virtual sex. In other words, it’s certainly easier for most Roblox players to find much more graphic sexual content online, and likely on Roblox itself, but it is precisely because it is more innocuous than other non-kid-friendly content on the online gaming platform that the existence of the strip clubs points to a safety problem with Roblox, which just filed for an IPO earlier this year.
Despite the fact that Roblox says it promotes a “family-friendly environment” with a “commitment to community safety,” the existence of “strip clubs” (and much worse content) on the 13-and-up app proves once again that Roblox is not completely free of adults and adult content. It’s more evidence that no such space exists.
Experts Concerns Are About Grooming Online
Experts are mostly ambivalent about the strip clubs, about “virtual sexual experimentation.” Some online spaces can be safe places for teenagers to explore and figure out their identities. What they are concerned about is if “one-on-one relationships” arise from the rooms and children and minors become victims of grooming.
“Where it leads to grooming is if someone is direct messaging another child within that game and sending sexually explicit messages and asking for things back. It’s that individual desensitization to sexual content that really makes it dangerous,” Carole Swiecicki, chief programmatic officer for the Dee Norton Child Advocacy Center, told Rolling Stone for a recent investigation into the phenomenon.
The line for Swiecicki is when one-on-one relationships grow out of the game, relationships that can lead to grooming. A space where minors curious about sexuality congregate unsupervised is of obvious interest to predators, which is why it’s so important for kids to know what is and isn’t appropriate behavior to encounter online, and what is and isn’t appropriate information to share with others.
Roblox Is Struggling to Combat These Problems
The magazine’s reporting did reveal that much of what happens in these rooms is relatively tame, but that doesn’t mean that parents shouldn’t be concerned. It’s not like Roblox has a great track record, after all, particularly since April 2021, when Wall Street Journal reporting revealed a scourge of offensive content on the platform. Roblox responded by promising to launch more robust parental controls and content ratings in order to increase the safety of minors on the platform.
The offensive content included simulated sex, racist imagery, actual photos of naked people, and more. One parent who spoke to WSJ said that his 8-year-old son entered a Roblox game where he saw a depiction of sodomy, a photo of a real woman in a thong, and racist music playing in the background. These strip clubs are more of a continuation of a theme, which is that Roblox has a lot of work to do to keep kids safe.
Roblox claims they have a “no-tolerance” policy for profanity and offensive content — but a string of controversies, including when neo-Nazis infiltrated the platform in 2019 and Fast Company found a game of naked Roblox avatars simulating sex acts — have shown that is not always the case.
Of the 30 million users on the platform, over half are under the age of 13. About 75 percent of kids between the age of nine and 12 in the United States have used the platform. Inappropriate content on Roblox, then, has the potential to reach millions of kids.
Parents Should Always Talk To Their Children Extensively About Internet Safety
Ultimately, though it’s not an ideal solution, the lesson of this story is that it’s incumbent on parents to prepare their kids for the stuff they’ll inevitably encounter on the internet and that parents should never feel like they can 100% trust their children in the hands of corporations.
Internet Safety Tip: Share with Care
Before your child of any age starts using the internet on their own, tell them they are never to share any of their personal information with someone they meet online. That includes their name, telephone number, address, hometown, school name, parent’s names, siblings’ names, and more. If there is someone they want to share all that with, they need to get your permission first.
For more information, see The Parent’s Guide to Internet Safety.