As a parent, you often take as many measures as you can to protect your kids from potentially inappropriate media on a variety of platforms, from Netflix to YouTube to gaming apps. But on occasion, even the best attempts to shield little ones from disturbing content may be thwarted by misleading advertising. That's precisely what happened to a mom from Raleigh, North Carolina named Amber Petersen. Petersen took to Facebook on June 28 to share that her 7-year-old daughter had a "horrifying experience" on an online gaming platform called Roblox.
Explaining that the site has been "dubbed the 'number one gaming site for kids,' with the second most accessible rating of PEGI 7," Petersen noted that "Roblox is recommended for children ages 7 and up and it currently has 64 million users. The game contains a multiplayer online gaming platform that allows users to create their own personal avatar, as well as their own adventures (similar to MineCraft). Roblox also provides the opportunity to interact with others’ virtual realities, which is a popular feature of this game."
Petersen shared that "Roblox also has security settings that allow the parent to block outside conversations and invitations. There are also 24-hour moderators that are hired to block any potentially inappropriate content. When my husband and I decided to allow our daughter to play this game, we adjusted the security settings to maximum privacy. Or at least we THOUGHT we did..."
She explained that she was in bed with her daughter when the 7-year-old showed her mother her iPad screen. "At first, I couldn’t believe what I was seeing," Petersen wrote. "My sweet and innocent daughter’s avatar was being VIOLENTLY GANG-RAPED ON A PLAYGROUND by two males. A female observer approached them and proceeded to jump on her body at the end of the act. Then the 3 characters ran away, leaving my daughter’s avatar laying on her face in the middle of the playground. Words cannot describe the shock, disgust, and guilt that I am feeling right now, but I’m trying to put those feelings aside so I can get this warning out to others as soon as possible."
She ended up taking screenshots of the video game scene and posting them in the comments below her original post "so people will realize just how horrific this experience was."
Later speaking to WCBD News, Petersen explained that following the incident, she felt compelled to have a conversation with her daughter about consent and also used the word "rape," as she felt it was only the responsible thing to do.
WCBD News reported on the incident, noting that the gaming site responded to the incident by stating, “We have identified how this bad actor created the offending action and are putting additional safeguards in place to reduce the possibility of this happening again in the future." The spokesperson also noted that the person behind that virtual attack has been permanently banned from the site.
Nonetheless, this heinous situation most definitely serves as a wake-up call to parents about what could potentially occur on not only this app but perhaps a number of multiplayer online games.
The bottom-line for Petersen: "Parents/Caregivers...not only do I urge you to DELETE THIS APP, I hope you will take another look at all of your devices and their security settings. Better yet, perhaps you can join me in taking the rest of this summer to challenge your child to PUT AWAY THEIR SCREENS....AND READ!!! Books cannot be hacked, but sadly, I’ve learned the hard way that a child’s innocence can be just at the touch of a button."