BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - If you don't know what Roblox is then just ask your child or anyone under 12. It's a gaming app similar to Minecraft that lets players not only build their own characters but even their own worlds and games.
But inside one of those games this summer, a North Carolina mom posted disturbing screengrabs on her Facebook page of other Roblox characters sexually assaulting the virtual character of her 7-year old daughter.
"I'm struggling with where to begin here because I'm feeling quite traumatized and violated on so many levels", wrote Amber Petersen.
"This is still technology at the end of the day and predators are always looking for ways to thwart our efforts and best intentions," said Kathy Hatem, Communications Director for Enough is Enough, an online safety coalition.
Roblox said in a statement: "We were outraged to learn that Roblox's community policies and Rules of Conduct were subverted. 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."
"It's not a matter of if it's going to happen, but when," Hatem says. "So as a parent it's so so important to be prepared and have an open line of communication with your child so they don't feel threatened or afraid to come to you when they do stumble across something like this."
Thankfully in this case, the mom was sitting right next to her child as she played and immediately noticed the problem. She says she thought she had the game's security settings set to restrict some content for kids under a certain age, but those settings somehow got reset--maybe when her daughter either deleted and re-downloaded the game to save space or updated the operating system.
"That's a huge problem we find," Hatem says. "Absolutely we must go back and look at the settings and make sure they're set the way you intended them to be."
Beyond checking and re-checking exactly what's on your child's device and the security settings--Enough is Enough recommends talking to your child now about what they need to stay away from and how to bring it to you if or when they stumble across bad content.
"Your child really appreciates having these boundaries and having their parents care," Hatem says.
Want more resources? Click here for an Internet 101 online gaming safety resource center.
Click here for a good baseline for Internet Safety Rules with your child.