Danger: Warning about popular virtual world for kids

Roblox boasts more than 40 million players

By Bill Spencer - Investigative Reporter , Tera Roberson - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - Roblox is a wildly popular online gaming community marketed toward children and teens that currently boasts more than 40 million players.

“I started playing it and I started liking it," Kieley Lorance, 8, said.

Kieley’s mother, Tamara Lorance, said, “I knew absolutely nothing about it. I just knew it was a game that was popular among the children, elementary-aged children."

But some parents, and even kids, are now calling Roblox a dangerous game that sexual predators can enter, portraying themselves as children, in the virtual world.

Dylen Lorance, Kieley’s 11-year-old brother, played the game, too. He said he was approached by predators while in the virtual world.

“I'd play it and I got in there and it would have, like, naked people in there doing weird stuff," he said.

It was Dylen who noticed something sinister on his sister Kieley’s screen that he said horrified him. Kieley had been playing the game since she was 6 years old and loved creating her own Roblox avatar and interacting with other players.

“People trying to, like, date her, asking her out, or telling her to change her clothes -- like clothes that barely covered her body, like sexy clothes,” Dylen said.

Kieley's mother saw it, too, and was flabbergasted.

“It looked like a dominatrix to me," she said. "It looked like a dominatrix creature."

Channel 2 Investigates spoke with Security Expert, Nicholas Dearman, of Global Investigations about Roblox.

We entered the world of Roblox with Dearman, and just five minutes into our visit he began getting bizarre messages.

“So right off the bat I see: 'I want to show you guys my ----,'" Dearman said of one of the messages.

Seconds later, a female character in a sexy cat suit with cat ears and tail scurried around. The obscene messages continued when a character asked him if they could perform a sex act with him.

Dearman said he was doubtful the person behind the avatar was 8 years old. He believes the person is much older.

There are actually YouTube videos that show Roblox avatars engaging in virtual sex.

But Dearman said the most dangerous part of the game is the chat portion where sexual predators can enter the game posing as kids and ask your children questions.

“A child sex predator could get cellphone numbers, home address, bus routes, bus stops, school addresses. The sky's the limit on what information they can get,” Dearman said.

His advice: eliminate the game’s “chat with strangers” feature by going into the settings wheel and selecting the “privacy” feature.

“I would automatically set it to 'No one can message me,' and when it asks who can chat with me in the app, I would select 'No one' as well," Dearman said.

He also said the same should be selected on “Who can chat with me in the game.”

The Lorance family said they are done playing Roblox.

"I don't think it's a good game,” Kieley said.

Dylen said he believe some of the people playing the game are adults looking for little children that don’t know what’s happening.

Channel 2 Investigates reached out to Roblox for comment for this story. Below is a statement from the company, as well as a link to a blog post written by the company’s CEO, in response to recent stories about the dangerous elements of the game. One big change that was made to the game in response to recent complaints is the chat feature can be completely disabled.

ROBLOX COMPANY STATEMENT:

"The safety of our community is a top priority and we’re constantly assessing and improving our trust and safety measures. There are several safeguards in place to protect our users that utilize current technology and human oversight.

"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. 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, and we will continue to invest in the safety of the game so it is a positive, productive, fun and protected space for our community. We would like to hear from parents if they have questions or suggestions."

Copyright 2017 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.