A Sydney mother was left reeling in shock and disgust after a sex predator sent vile messages to her 10-year-old daughter while she was playing a popular online game.
Roblox is a simulated reality game aimed at 8 to 12-year-olds. With three million unique users a month it’s been hailed as the “new Minecraft”.
But mother Shannon Mitchell is one of two Australian parents who told Nine.com.au that their children have been targeted by pedophiles while playing the game.
The development comes more than six months after concerns were first raised about Roblox’s chat feature overseas.
Mrs Mitchell said her daughter had been playing the game on her iPad and using the chat feature in a seemingly harmless way to talk to her school friends.
But Ms Mitchell said the alarm was raised when her daughter began saying vulgar things to her which she obviously had no understanding of.
“It was things like, ‘I want to put my penis in your vagina. I want to lick your p----y. I want to sleep with you’,” she said.
“She started coming out with all of this stuff. I was in a state of shock that these comments were coming out of the mouth of an innocent 10-year-old girl,” Ms Mitchell said.
“I said to her, ‘where are you getting this from?’ After a while she admitted to me it was Roblox.”
Jumping onto her daughter’s iPad and opening up the game, Ms Mitchell said she immediately saw the messages ticking over in the left hand corner of the screen.
Ms Mitchell said her daughter had already told the person chatting to her she was 10 years old and they continued to send the explicit messages.
“I was in a state. I was just absolutely lost for words and actually in tears by the afternoon because I didn’t know what to do,” she said.
“It just blew my mind. I know these grubs are out there but you just don’t think it’s going to happen to your child.”
Ms Mitchell said she immediately deleted the game and banned her daughter from using the iPad for a month. She also had a talk to her daughter about internet safety.
Another Australian mother, Kayla Bailey from Perth, said her nine-year-old daughter was also targeted on the game, which she described as a “pedophile’s gateway”.
Ms Bailey said she often spot checked her daughter while she used the iPad and one night while she was playing Roblox she was stunned by what she saw.
“There were a lot of innocent chats obviously with other kids but one conversation shook me,” she said.
“Someone had said, ‘where were you all weekend?’ And she said, ‘I told you I was at my dad’s house’. And he said, ‘I bet you weren't and were up all night sucking d---‘. She said, ‘No I was at my dad’s!
“To be honest I can't even really remember the rest of the conversation because I lost my marbles over it and deleted it.
“I had to calm down to talk to my daughter about how inappropriate people could be on the other side of the game and that stranger danger is so real even on computers.”
“Obviously a game directed to 8 to 12-year-olds doesn't need private chat, it's a pedophile’s gateway.”
In February this year, UK father Iain Morrison – who is a former rugby player for Hull in England – raised the alarm about the game’s chat function, saying he was approached by a pedophile himself on Roblox.
Deciding to check out the game that his eight-year-old son was playing, Mr Morrison said within 15 minutes of playing he was “propositioned”.
After going into a room with a pool people began sending him messages.
“They said ‘hi’ so I said ‘hi’ and they asked if I was a boy or girl and my age so I said I was an eight-year-old boy,” he said.
“They asked me to follow them to their house, then into the bedroom and asked me to lay down on top of them and then they started with the sexual movements.
“They said ‘you look cute’ and ‘you look sexy’. “It was sickening reading all the comments pop up. My kids were completely oblivious as to what the words and stuff meant.”
Roblox spokesperson Brian Jaquet told nine.com.au community safety was the company’s “top priority” and there were safeguards in place to help parents protect their children from unwanted interactions.
The safeguards included parental controls to allow parents to shut-off chat capability, age “visibility” so that parents could easily determine that the settings for their kids are age appropriate, and more stringent chat controls for under-13s restricting a greater range of words.
“Together we want to work with parents and the community to stay vigilant over today’s online landscape and continue to build best practices to avoid negative situations,” Mr Jaquet said.
“We want to make sure that all users are aware of the potential challenges and navigate them through it.
“This is a priority for us. We want all users to be safe on Roblox.”
Jayne Crossling, who is the Acting National Coordinator Missing Persons and Exploited Children for the Australian Federal Police, told Nine.com.au in a statement that she saw many cases of children have been approached by child sex offenders through online games.
“Unfortunately this is not an uncommon scenario. Many parents aren’t aware that the games their children might be playing have a chat or direct message function,” she said.
“Child sex offenders use this to their advantage. They use the privacy and anonymity of the internet to identify and target vulnerable children; children who are often online unsupervised on what appear to be benign platforms.
“Parents may not be aware that chat functions appear on several popular online games and applications, including games as Minecraft and Roblox.”
“Child sex offenders know the types of apps children are using, and will often chat with children across more than one platform, switching between apps.”
If parents suspected their child had been targeted by a predator, Ms Crossling said they should first take screenshots or photos of the chat and the user’s profile before blocking them.
Parents should then report the user to the platform and police, she said.
'It's a pedophile's gateway: Nine and 10-year-old girls targeted by predators on kid's game Roblox Oct 18, 2017