A Jersey school has issued a warning to parents about a popular gaming app following reports that UK children as young as six were sent “explicit” messages by strangers.
In a post on social media, St John’s School warned Jersey parents and carers about ‘Roblox’ – a Minecraft-style gaming app set in a virtual universe.
While the game largely focuses on multiplayer games for children, the presence of the built-in messaging feature has caused particular alarm, as it allows any of the app’s 30 million users to contact each other – no matter what their age.
The Sun reported that one father received “sickening” messages from a "predator" on his iPad, which is used by his eight-year-old son, while the Daily Mail wrote that a girl of the same age was asked, “Hello cupcake, do you want to meet up?”
Speaking about ‘Roblox’, Mr James Matthews, Acting Deputy Headteacher and Safeguarding Lead for St John’s School, commented:
“I happen to know that Roblox is popular as our KS2 children had identified it as a favourite during a survey which we conducted with them before Christmas.
“Apps (such as Roblox in this instance) present an issue, as many involve connectivity to the internet and networking with others - strangers. Many of these apps, once downloaded, have a default setting of public which poses risks to children. And despite having the ability to make private, settings can easily revert once an app has updated. Parents need to be extremely vigilant.”
He said the warning came as part of the school’s, “…ongoing policy policy to keep parents informed and up-to-date with any potential risks, particularly those associated with games and apps which we know are popular.”
“We wanted to share our concerns about children’s online habits, particularly at home when perhaps monitoring and filtering is not as strict as it is in school,” he added.
The news comes following an e-safety talk held at the school last month as part of Safer Internet Day (SID), which was supported by the States of Jersey Police and the ‘Prison! Me! No Way!!!’ campaign.
At the time, Lesley Harrison, Jersey Chairman of ‘Prison! Me! No Way!!!’, said that today’s children, “…make little distinction between life on and off.”
“Their use of online games, apps and services play a crucial role in the development of their identities, friendships, relationships, passions and aspirations. It is essential that we respond by offering them high quality online safety education that will enable them to make positive choices that will help keep them safe, and also enable them to recognise the consequences and relevant laws.”
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