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Tip-toeing into her eight-year-old daughter Emily’s bedroom, Lisa Deacon was expecting to find her little girl sleeping soundly.Instead, Emily was wide awake, eyes glued to her mother’s iPad – /sciencetech/apple/index.html.Cross that her daughter had not only taken the device without permission but continued using it after bedtime, Lisa whisked it away.
It was only after she had returned to her own bedroom and saw what was on the iPad that her irritation turned to horror.The computer game featured two naked male cartoon characters, aroused genitalia on display. One stood beside a female character, also naked, and was thrusting back and forth, simulating sex. Cyber-security expert James Bore, fears some children who use Roblox are being targeted by paedophiles or prey to being radicalised‘I felt sick that my daughter had seen this,’ says Lisa, 33, an educational administrator from Carlisle, Cumbria.
‘I’d done everything I could to make sure she was safe online, and yet she’d still come across these images.‘It opened up a realm of fear about grooming and paedophilia.’Amid her initial shock and confusion, Lisa was sure of just one fact: Emily, a friendly girl who loves art and gymnastics, had accessed the game on Roblox.The most popular online entertainment forum for children under 13, Roblox is a game creation platform comprising more than 50 million games. RELATED ARTICLES Previous – # 1 – # Next – # Cementing her status as Joe’s ‘best political asset’: First… – /femail/article-9168903/First-Lady-Jill-Biden-cements-status-President-Joe-Bidens-best-political-asset.html Sophie Wessex admits she’s ‘gone to some very dark places’… – /femail/article-9168951/Sophie-Wessex-wept-hearing-testimonies-sexual-violence-victims.html
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With its easy-to-access App and brightly-coloured Lego-like avatars (characters – http://www.futureofeducation.com/main/search/search?q=characters that players can use as their identity within the games), it allows children to join from the age of just seven (though, when signing up for an account, Roblox’s terms state users under 18 must have parental consent to register).There are 1.5 million children using the platform in the UK, some as young as seven. As the popularity of computer games has soared during the pandemic, that figure will have risen further.Most parents with primary school-age children will already be familiar with Roblox’s most popular games, including Adopt Me!, which allows children to acquire virtual pets such as unicorns; and Royale High, a school their avatars can attend. Critics argue Roblox isn’t doing enough to keep children from content that can cause harm and trauma to children. Pictured: Mel Sims’ daughter Olivia, ten, has had nightmaresThe App is free to download, but Roblox has its own currency, Robux, which users buy to pay for accessories and customise avatars.
Roblox takes a cut of games creators’ profits and the company has just been valued at £21.8 billion.Lisa downloaded the Roblox App for Emily two years ago, reassured by automatic security controls that mean children under 13 can only send a direct message to users they have accepted as Roblox ‘friends’.
‘We told her not to add anyone to her friends list she didn’t know,’ says Lisa, who monitored that list every fortnight.But two of Roblox’s biggest selling points — that children can interact with others, and that anyone with a computer can post their own game on the platform — provide its greatest dangers.A spokesperson for Roblox told the Mail the platform works ‘relentlessly to create a safe and civil community’.But critics say it isn’t doing enough.
‘Shocking content can cause harm and trauma to children,’ says cyber-security expert James Bore, who runs Bores Consultancy Ltd. He believes some are targeted by paedophiles on the platform, or become easy prey to being radicalised by games promoting extremism.
‘There are people creating games for Roblox who are neo-Nazis or belong to white supremacist groups,’ says Mr Bore. Roblox claims that 1,700 staff worldwide monitor content 24 hours a day and technology is used to filter inappropriate content.
Pictured: Mel Sims’ daughter OliviaThough Roblox stresses that 1,700 staff worldwide monitor content 24 hours a day, it also relies on technology to filter inappropriate messages and images.‘Any automated moderation can be beaten,’ says Mr Bore.
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