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Roblox used to exploit children as young as 8, Alberta RCMP officer says

The gaming platform Roblox is displayed on a tablet, Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 in New York. Leon Keith, The Associated Press

Roblox is the latest website potentially being used by predators to target children, according to a police officer with Alberta RCMP’s internet child exploitation unit.

Sgt. Kerry Shima said children as young as eight years old have been targeted on the game, which he describes as a “virtual arcade.”

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“The game is very attractive for kids. Even when I watch my daughter play it, it’s very eye-catching,” he said.

“I could see it being very addictive and a lot of kids are going to be there.”

While there are a range of games available on the platform, Shima said the chat function is where investigators start to see problems.

LISTEN: Alberta RCMP Sgt. Kerry Shima talks Roblox on This Morning with J’lyn Nye and Daryl McIntyre

“What we’re seeing is the offenders are posing as peer-aged children on the platform looking for someone who is going to engage with them,” said Shima, adding that the offenders will begin to develop a bond with the children.

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“These are people looking to offend against kids, or looking to lure them and ultimately extort them into sending photos and videos.”

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Shima said the offenders can move the conversation to another app, like Snapchat or Instagram, where they may ask the children for inappropriate pictures and videos.

The answer isn’t banning the internet, Shima said.

“We want them to interact safely online, but what it really comes down to is parents understanding what their kids are doing and where they’re interacting online,” he said.

“At the end of the day, parents are extremely bad at the internet, and that’s what I’ve come to learn doing this job. So we really need to take the time to sit with our kids, show a little humility and have them teach us some stuff.”

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Shima recommends sitting with your kid as they play and asking questions that encourage them to think critically about the other people playing the game.

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“I sit down with my daughter and watch her play Roblox and we’re like, ‘What is that guy doing? What is that person saying? How do you know that person?’ And a lot of times (she says), ‘That’s just somebody, I don’t know who that is because anybody can really play the game,’” Shima said.

He said this will help parents understand the game so they can keep tabs on any off-site conversations that may unfold.

“There are a lot of good parental controls on Roblox, and it’s just a matter of taking the time to learn that and implementing those,” Shima added.

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On the Roblox website, the company says players aged 12 and younger have different safety settings that it says prevent inappropriate content and the sharing of personal information.

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“Players age 12 and younger have their posts and chats filtered both for inappropriate content and to prevent personal information from being posted,” reads the website.

Parents can also restrict or disable chat in the game.

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