Roblox: Pretty Good
WHATS IT ABOUT?
ROBLOX provides design elements to help budding game creators make and contribute games and activities. Most are free to play once you register and download an installer, and there are plenty to check out. Users can also chat with and friend each other, join groups, and post on message boards. The games can be inconsistent -- novice developers make them, so quality can vary -- and younger kids may find some a bit scary. Safety features allow parents to limit some of kids' chat and other features by changing their account settings.
IS IT ANY GOOD?
This creativity-based website features a never-ending (and continually evolving) supply of creative, fun challenges to explore -- that's the beauty of offering designs from thousands of budding developers. A number of Roblox's user-contributed items, which range from simple obstacle course games to virtual cities, offer an exciting, amusing, and inspiring experience. In addition to checking out available games, kids can also flex their imagination via a design tool that lets them fashion their own games and environments. Unfortunately, though, because many contributors are amateur designers, kids may come across rendering problems, on-screen flicker, and some extremely frustrating gameplay, particularly when navigating mazes or jumping. Users can also potentially encounter inappropriate chat and other content. A number have reported problematic interactions with strangers, and there are lots of examples of violent and overtly sexual content and predatory behavior that have been documented in news sources.
Roblox gets high marks for encouraging exploration, interaction, and, above all, huge amounts of creativity in its users. Kids can theoretically begin as player/explorers and evolve into experienced users and developers. In addition, popular titles could potentially result in young designers making some cash off their inventions. Just be aware that some games they play may be violent, depending on what a creator has placed into a particular experience. And although the site says it proactively filters inappropriate content, a fairly well-publicized 2018 incident in which a user said her 7-year-old daughter's avatar was "gang-raped" on a playground -- along with the fact that Roblox "rape scenes" can be found on YouTube -- suggests some extremely iffy stuff may make it through. Parents may also want to check chat programs that their kids are using to communicate with other players in Roblox games. Other reported incidents have involved players using personally created Discord servers to direct Roblox users to "condo games," where inappropriate sexual content, language, and potential grooming by predators may take place. Parents will likely want to supervise their child's site use to make sure they're viewing only safe content and not interacting with strangers.