You may already keep an eye on who your kids text and what they post to social media. But who’s chatting with your children while they are playing online gaming apps?
Theresa, a concerned mom from the south suburbs who asked us not to share her last name, said her nine-year-old daughter is a fan of the game Roblox. However, she recently checked her daughter’s phone and discovered an unfamiliar number with someone requesting inappropriate photos of her daughter.
Theresa learned the person requesting the photographs had originally communicated with her daughter via Roblox’s in-game chat feature.
Theresa said her daughter said “no” each time the user requested photos and that no photos were exchanged.
“I’m proud of her that because he tried so many tactics to reach her,” Theresa said.
The other user offered a cat, money and gifts to Theresa’s daughter in exchange for photos of her in her underwear.
“As a parent you feel sick to your stomach and you feel that you did something wrong, even though I have gone through everything you can go through as far as teaching my daughter right from wrong and what information is yours and what you don’t give out over the internet,” Theresa said.
Theresa notified her local police department. The case is currently under investigation.
Roblox told NBC 5 Investigates it took immediate action by banning and blocking the bad actor.
“We feel very confident that this bad actor will not have contact with people,” a Roblox spokesperson said.
It is not clear if the other user was a child or an adult.
Roblox said the other user somehow snuck around the game’s strict chat filters. According to the spokesperson, the game’s filters are continually being updated.
“Our 100% focus is keeping families safe,” the spokesperson said.
Retired Naperville Police detective Rich Wistocki talks to parents and kids across the country about online safety.
“What I tell the kids is that the common denominator that this person is a predator, that they will try to get you off the gaming platform or the social network to go to private chat. When they do that they are not who they say they are. Because if they have something to say, why not say it on the game?” Wistocki said.
Wistocki also said many kids are not telling the truth about their age when they register for online gaming and social media accounts. He said in many cases, kids click on the year “2000” when an app asks for “year of birth.”
“What do you think’s gonna come to them? Adult images, adult videos, adults trying to talk to them and meet with them,” Wistocki said.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, offenders often start grooming kids by “liking” or commenting their posts.
Still, parents can disable the chat features on their kids’ games. You can select “chat with no one” on Roblox, for example.
Roblox said parents can also set a pin code to prevent their kids from adjusting the settings.
The makers of Fortnite said its platforms all have built-in parental controls.
Theresa said she used her own date of birth when helping her daughter sign up for Roblox. She said she did not know about the game’s chat features at the time.
These days, Theresa said she is compelled to advocate for other children and to warn their families.
She said apps like Roblox must be held more accountable and do a better job of protecting younger users.
“The issue here as that bad guys are taking advantage of every opportunity to get in touch with children in real time, a feature that shouldn’t ever even be an option for anyone under 18 years of age,” Theresa said.
Roblox said its chat filtering can be more stringent for users 13 and under.