A Parents’ Guide to Roblox: more than half of America’s kids play Roblox, and let’s face it: most of us parents have no idea what they actually do there. In this episode, we dive into the popular gaming platform, what is it, what are they doing there, and most important: is it safe? We interviewed a gay dad who plays Roblox with his kids, the platform’s Community Director for Safety and Civility, and for the first time in the podcast’s history: we interview our kids!

Roblox, the popular gaming platform, seems to be a growing phenomenon that is becoming a childhood milestone, just like Halloween obsession or the Baby Shark song.

“It is a platform where people can create anything they can imagine,” explains Laura Higgins, Director for Community Safety and Civility at Roblox. “We actually started as a physics classroom app and it was a way that young people can carry out experiments that they can’t do in the real world, for example, what happens if you drop a car off a tall building. So it started as a classroom, but what we started seeing is what kids were doing outside of the classroom. They were using their imagination to come up with that wacky creations.”

Higgins says that the company encourages that parents be involved as much as possible especially when setting up the kids’ accounts. The tips she shared on our podcast in order to ensure the safety of the kids include using the kids’ actual birth date (to make sure the age-appropriate restrictions will be part of the child’s profile), choosing a restricted games list, turn chat on/off, choose who they can talk to and create a (not-obvious) pin number control.

“Safety is definitely our core at Roblox,” Higgins says. “We are a platform designed around kids and for kids, so that safety was built right from day one. We don’t allow any sharing of identifiable information, so they cannot share their telephone number, their address, their real names – all of those sorts of things it’s banned.”

“We have very strict chat filtering that runs across the platform, in fact, we use several filtering systems, it’s a mix of human moderation and machine and AI technologies that constantly run across the platform. Until very recently you couldn’t type any numbers. Our technology has moved on and we’ve become much more savvy about managing these things, we use contextual moderation, so for example if I work on a pizza place, it will be able to detect if you say ‘I sold three pizzas today,’ as opposed to ‘I’m 3-years-old’.”

In the episode, we also heard from Jeremy, a gay dad in Minnesota, who plays with his kids regularly on the platform. Jeremy shares custody of his 3 boys, ages 11, 10, 8.  He works for a school district as the Finance Director.  Jeremy has been with his boyfriend for 2 years and, he is the Band Teacher at the school his kids go to.  They like playing Minecraft and Roblox as a family.

“My partner and I were kinda dragged into ‘we want you to play with us’,” Jeremy tells us. “I am not a big gamer, so it was new for me, but I did help them set up their accounts.”

“It’s scary when you first start,” the dad of three concluded, “it’s so overwhelming and I was like ‘I don’t know what to do, you’re going to have to show me’.”

Our Guest: Laura Higgins

Laura Higgins, Roblox

Director of Community Safety and Civility, Roblox

Laura Higgins is Director of Community Safety and Civility at Roblox with more than two decades of experience building proven safeguarding, online safety and civility programs. Roblox’s groundbreaking digital civility initiative is focused on providing the community with the skills needed to create positive online experiences in partnership with the world’s leading safety and industry organizations that drive meaningful change. Civility online is a new concept that’s based on existing principles—that everybody has a part to play in making the digital world a better place.

In her previous role with the UK Safer Internet Centre (part of the “Better Internet for Kids” project funded by the European Commission), Laura founded several award-winning services including the Professionals Online Safety Helpline and the world’s first helpline dedicated to supporting victims of image based abuse. Laura has worked with the biggest names in tech sitting on Twitter and Snapchat’s advisory boards. She has spoken on digital safety topics across the globe and regularly appears in the media sharing her expertise with industry experts, parents and kids.

Guest Host: Daniel Vandenbark

Daniel is a single dad, co-parenting with his former partner to raise their son, Torbett, who came to them through open-adoption. Daniel founded his design firm over twenty years ago, designing custom interiors and waterwise landscapes for clients in SoCal and through the US. Daniel is an outdoor enthusiast and enjoys sharing time backpacking, snowboarding and dadventuring with Torbett.

Men Having Babies Corner

Men Having Babies is a community, nonprofit organization that helps gay men become fathers via surrogacy with education and financial assistance. In each episode this season, the team of Men Having Babies (MHB) will educate us on aspects of having kids through ethical surrogacy. This fall, Men Having Babies is having two more conferences for gay men who want to learn more about building a family through surrogacy – in what they call ‘surrogacy bootcamp.’ They will be in Chicago (October 14-15) and New York City (November 11-13).

Episode Credits

Co-Hosts: Yan Dekel, Alex Maghen
Guest Host: Daniel Vandenbark
Guests: Jeremy Wilcox, Laura Higgins (Roblox), our kids! Adam and Ben, and Torbett.
Opening Theme: Hercules & Love Affair, “Leonora” buy here
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