Casual Connect: Roblox to discuss privacy and safety for children

James Brightman, Thursday, May 23rd, 2019 2:23 pm

In 2006, many years before Minecraft was a glimmer in developer Mojang’s eyes, Roblox was launched and introduced the idea of a sandbox-style, massively multiplayer game creation system to players of all ages. The game naturally draws kids into its world with its family-friendly style, but any time parents allow their children to go online, safety is of the utmost concern. This is perhaps even more critical in an era where so much of online discourse via gaming, social media or elsewhere has unfortunately become toxic. Thankfully, Roblox is taking digital safety very seriously, and at Casual Connect London, Laura Higgins, Director of Community Safety & Digital Civility, will talk about this topic as part of a panel with Pete Hickman, Producer, Digital Entertainment and Games, BBC Worldwide, Vernon Jones, Head of Safety, MovieStarPlanet and Shai Samet, Founder and President, kidSAFE Seal Program.

Higgins, who worked in child safeguarding for years, specifically helps Roblox develop “resources to give children and their parents the tools to create a safe environment to play and learn.” She continued, “My role at Roblox is to make sure players are safe and happy online but also that they’re having fun! Games are a virtual playground; they’re where kids learn new skills, communicate with others, build resilience and hang out with their mates. I don’t think they are given as much thought as they deserve.”

With a massive player base of over 90 million users, Roblox is able to see what measures work and what needs adjustment when it comes to ensuring safety and civility. 

Laura Higgins, Roblox
Laura Higgins, Roblox

“With such a huge community we have a duty to make sure Roblox is a safe and welcoming community for all our users – our work on privacy and safety is never done,” Higgins said. “Already, we partner with many online safety organisations around the world and as part of our ongoing expansion in Europe we are expanding our network even further. We want to work with other players in the industry to develop best practices and help us educate even more children and parents and to make sure there’s a clear and effective process in place to deal with any issues that crop up.  

So much of it is also about education. We want to give children and their parents the skills to help them navigate the changing digital landscape, and teach them how to self-moderate to build a community motivated by positive behaviour. For example, we make it really easy for kids to block and report disruptive players on the platform to help them keep Roblox as a place where they enjoy spending time playing and learning.”  

Community moderation can be a daunting task for any company, but it’s especially challenging when the audience size becomes so large. Sometimes technology can be hugely helpful in this endeavor, but Roblox also throws a very large teams of actual moderators at the problem. 

“We take digital safety, civility and play very seriously at Roblox. As well as our ever-evolving moderation technology, we have a team of over 800 human moderators worldwide who monitor content around the clock to review everything that is uploaded onto Roblox before it’s published,” Higgins explained.  

Encouraging children to play nicely online is also hugely important – arguably as important as encouraging this behaviour in real life, as digital platforms increasingly provide the traditional ‘playground’ experience for young people. We’re trying to give young people the skills to help them both online and offline as the line between the two worlds becomes increasingly blurred.

We also think it’s so important for parents to engage with what their children are doing online. We created a Roblox Parent’s Guide to help parents understand Roblox and the options and controls that they have available to help them decide the best way for their children to experience Roblox. But beyond this, we want to encourage parents to show an interest in the games their kids are playing, and talk to them openly about how to play with friends online and difficult topics like bullying.”

At Casual Connect, Higgins is hoping to share Roblox’s learnings but she’s also eager to hear from the industry-atl-large on this critical topic.

I love attending events like Casual Connect as they’re a great opportunity for me to share what we do to promote safety and civility among gamers of all generations, but particularly younger players,” she said. “Casual Connect will be a fantastic opportunity to hear from and share ideas with other industry experts on industry best-practices – knowledge sharing to make the industry a safer place for everyone is hugely important to developers and publishers of all shapes and sizes, particularly as the games industry continues to go from strength to strength.

I am very much looking forward to hearing from my own panel, we are exploring the intersection between privacy and safety, a topic very close to my heart. I’m intrigued as to how other companies manage this!”

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