I get asked about Roblox more than any other game right now. It makes sense. The game has 200 million monthly players and something like 75% of boys aged 9-12 in the US play this game.
I’ve decided to take this question and make it the ultimate opportunity to walk through what we’ve been talking about for the last few weeks. Today we apply the “Adopting New Tech” model and walk through the conversation as it applies to a world-leading video game.
Today we’ll answer:
Is it safe?
Does it fit your family expectations (both for tech and for games)?
Is it a good fit for your child?
Purposely. Your life. God’s purpose. Listen at onpurposely.com.
Nathan Sutherland [00:00:08] Hello everyone, and welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. My name is Nathan Sutherland and this podcast is dedicated to helping families love God and use tech today. Our conversation is going to revolve around really going deeper into a concept we’ve talked about before. We’ve talked before about how do we know for tech is safer, really? How do we determine what tech our children should have? And I want to take that idea and apply it. We’re going to look today specifically at Roblox. This is something I’ve avoided doing, mainly because, well, I didn’t want this to be all about Nathan’s hot takes. But at the end of the day, I can say the right words a lot, but I want to make them applicable. I want to make him helpful. So what we’re going to do today is we’re going to look at Roblox with the idea of, yes, understanding a little bit of what it is. But I’m going to assume you at least have YouTube at your disposal. You can Google this, you can look it up if you want.
Nathan Sutherland [00:00:57] So we’ll talk more about the three steps of determining new tech for our kids. We’ve done it before with smartphones, with video games in general, but today we’re going to talk about is Roblox safe? Just first and foremost, as a parent, what would my answer be? And as we look at the research, what should we be looking for? The second would be, is it a good fit for our family? And we’re going to walk through just with Roblox, maybe making allusions to some other ideas, but just with this particular game, because it is growing so rapidly and I’m getting so many questions about it. And a third being, is it a good fit for our child? Does it support their purpose?
Nathan Sutherland [00:01:33] And at the end of this conversation, well, have two things. One will be more, I guess, experience of how to walk through the conversation of new technology and will have addressed thoroughly. Roblox. Because again, people are asking a lot and I want to make sure I’m doing a good job with that. So I think this is at least a solid start. So with no further ado, let’s get this conversation started.
Nathan Sutherland [00:01:58] Welcome to the Gospel Tech podcast. A resource for parents who feel overwhelmed and outpaced as they raise healthy youth in a tech world. As an educator, parent and tech user, I want to equip parents with the tools, resources and confidence they need to raise kids who love God and use tech. Thank you to everyone who’s made this podcast possible. Thank you for listening. For sharing. For liking. For leaving a review. That’s all amazing. It helps people find us. So the idea behind this being, Oh, and since this is going to be on YouTube like and subscribe, the idea here I guess is twofold. One, when you do all of those things, people find out about gospel tech, they find out about this ministry that can help them love God, use tech so that young people and their parents can find out, All right, how do we even talk about technology? What should I be concerned about? And then how do I handle my fear? We shouldn’t just play technological Whac-A-Mole. We want to make sure we’re putting people to the hope they have in Christ that we are sinners in need of a savior. And once we’re saved, we’re not just saved from bad stuff. We’re saved FOR the best stuff. We’re safe for relationship with God forever. And then to work that out, to tell others about it.
Nathan Sutherland [00:03:09] So that’s our first side. The second side being for why I would ask you to engage in all those ways digitally is I was at a conference this last week and a young person, she must have been mid-twenties, came up to talk to me and Anna. We were at a conference together which was super cool and the girl’s like, “Oh, how can I find your content?” I said, “Well, like right now it’s mostly on podcast set.” “Great. Where do I look it up?” And I’m like, “Well, like wherever you listen to podcasts.” She’s like, “I only watch podcasts on YouTube.” Like, “Okay, well, we’re not there yet.” I was like, But like, you’re on YouTube, so you could go over to look up a podcast.” She’s like, “Oh no, I only watch YouTube on my TV.” I was like, “All right, all right.” So all that to say we’re making some of this content so that people like this wonderful young person can find our content and can engage it and share it, we can just be more accessible to a wider audience who we want to have experience and hope in Christ, and then apply that hope to the technology because we think the Internet needs it. But more importantly, we know that our hearts need it. So thank you for joining us on that. Thank you for supporting us financially, relationally and just being the emotional encouragement that you all are.
Nathan Sutherland [00:04:18] So today’s conversation. Oh, no, not today’s conversation. Second, housekeeping. I wanted to make sure I mentioned because I have been remiss, One of our amazing partners, Lome and Bark, are has two of our amazing partners, Lome and Bark. So Lome on the first one is a family scheduling and engagement platform. They do an amazing job If you just look up Withlome.com, they’re incredible. I’m not getting paid to say that. I believe in their ministry and their market and they’re doing an awesome job. They actually just this maybe two months ago now added an amazing new feature that basically is E-vite. But without taking all of your personal data, they do an incredible job of protecting your personal privacy because that is part of their mission is to make your family more connected, not distracted. If you ever want to use E-vite, go check out with Lome and the resource they have over there. It’s pretty incredible for scheduling. Second is Bark. Bark is an amazing way to trust your child on the Internet and make sure that they’re not going into the dark places of the interwebs on their own. You don’t have to look over the shoulder all the time. You don’t have to read through the digital diary. You simply need to make sure Bark is in place and you get notifications when things start to go off the rails. That then gives you the parenting win so you can go have that conversation.
Nathan Sutherland [00:05:30] So with that now today’s conversation, the conversation is, I’m sorry, that wasn’t it. With Bark, you go bark.us and you can go GOSPELTECH10 at checkout and you’ll get 10% off. Now it’s all All right. Here we go.
Nathan Sutherland [00:05:47] Today’s conversation is talking about Roblox and specifically using our framework for adopting new technology. So in review, we ask three questions when we adopt new technology. The first is, is this safe? Is it a good idea? And our framework biblically is Jesus and God’s good father. You guys are good fathers. You know how this goes. He’s saying, Ask our Heavenly Father for things, but in the context it says, Hey, if your kid comes to you and asks you for an egg, you’re not going to give him a scorpion. Well, let’s take that to our digital space. We need to make sure the thing our kid is asked for because we love giving them good gifts. We want to make sure they have the coolest games and shows and technology as long as it’s not a scorpion. Right? They’re saying, “Dad, mom, I want this good gift. Can you give it to me?” And you don’t want to say yes if you can prove it’s not a good gift. So that’s our first. Second is going to be all right. Is it a good fit for our family so we know the thing is safe? Does it fit our family expectations, though? We need to talk about what those are. And since today’s conversation is a video game, there’s like a subset of that. And the third and final one is, all right, we know it’s safe. We know it’s a good fit for our family and season of life. But what about for our child? You might have multiple children and not every tech option is going to be a good choice for every single child either because you have a 15 year old and a nine year old or simply because you have twins and they’re not the exact same human. They have different preferences and they have different ways they engage things. And one might be really helpful in a certain action and one might not.
Nathan Sutherland [00:07:14] So that’s kind of the overview for the conversation. So to begin, let’s look first at is it safe? What we’re looking at here is first, what kind of tech is it? Because as we know, there’s two kinds. Tool and drool. Drool tech is designed to take your time, your focus, your money. So with that in mind, we immediately know, all right, if it’s drill tech, we just need to acknowledge that it is designed to distract us. It’s designed to fight our good decisions. You go there for one reason to belong, to have friends, to enjoy yourself, to experience something exciting. And it’s job is to make sure that you stay longer than you meant to, or that you come back more often than you would have otherwise. Or you spend more money than you had planned. Its job is simply to set new goals for you that you never wanted and actually to convince you you need those goals. That’s the concern with drool tech. It doesn’t make it bad. It does make it different. The example that I love using is Microsoft Word. No notifications and never comes in bothers you. It doesn’t remind you about things. There’s really no notification process and it never compares you to others or gives you some kind of fear of missing out about all the great things happening in the world and how you really just haven’t quite got to it. And here’s a feed to show you. All right. It doesn’t do that. On the flip side, something like social media or video games, they’re often built with little micro goals to get you trained into behaviors of retention, to get you engaged in a game and get you to stay there. Yes, you want to have fun, but this is convincing you why you should keep playing, which is why so many gamers have been in the spot where they’re playing a game to go. Do you like the game? Like they used to? Why do you keep playing it? I’m just so invested, right? That is behavioral training at its best and worst. So first is know that it’s drool tech. Roblox is a game. It is designed for retention. That’s entire premise. It’s free to play, and yet they still make a lot of money. So we need to recognize that that is drool tech and it’s format. It is not just a tool we go and use. It’s designed with little feedback loops to keep us coming back.
Nathan Sutherland [00:09:20] So then we go, All right, if it is drool tech and we understand that, then does it have the Internet right? Is there a browser? Roblox doesn’t have to be access through a browser, but it is access to the internet. There is no version where you can play solo on your personal computer. There is always through their servers. So if you’re accessing Roblox, you do need internet access on that device. Just keep that in mind. There are certainly parental controls can be put in place. But just another note of like, all right, there’s no solo play offline mode for Roblox yet. Maybe in the future that will change, but it is not there and we do not know of any plans for that. The third then would be are there apps related to this game or within this game and in Roblox, absolutely. The entire premise of Roblox, if you’re not familiar, is that it’s basically like Minecraft with player made games. So you go in and you can join these different lobbies and forums and you can join these little mini games. And it used to be pretty simplistic and now it’s quite complex. And within those mini games you can make real world purchases using Robux. Robux being dollars you either earned by selling something in the game at your own little personal etsy shop of games, or by paying real world money and getting robux or receiving it as a Christmas gift or something like that. Someone bought real world or paid real world money for Robux. So to keep that in mind, there are absolutely what would be considered apps. There’s these mini games within and part of the complexity with that is the encouragement to spend real world money on that that which point now you have more investment and feeling like this is something that you kind of need to come back to and that you belong in or that even want to come back to because it has that unique flavor and it’s individual to you now.
Nathan Sutherland [00:10:57] So that’s one side. And the other side is it’s really hard to determine where people are going and what’s in these games and the interactions are having with real world people. Because at the end of the day, it is the Internet with user created content. And that is an interesting combo when it comes to marketing to young people. So we have it is on the Internet. And the final piece is just is it accountable? And that’s what I was trying to get there in that previous statement is it’s very hard to hold accountable when actually asked about this recently. There’s a backin…Oh, my goodness. I want to say it was December. It was late 2022. The founder of Roblox actually asked co-founder of Roblox, David Baszucki was asked by an 11 year old, “Hey, why don’t you guys have more moderators? Sometimes people are unkind in games” and his response is basically, “We’re doing okay.” Like, okay. And this is how I built this interview. And the I guess the premise is three out of four, 9 to 12 year olds, it’s estimated play Roblox, at least male, 9 to 12 year olds in the United States. And that’s a huge number. They means a majority of their marketing is now being pushed towards that younger generation. That’s just kind of who plays the game. They have upwards of 200 million individual players globally in a given month. That is a whole lot of bodies in there. And when a lot of them are young people. So that’s where you’re making your money is micro-transactions from young people. So that’s your market. And then a young person comes and says, “Hey, I don’t always feel safe in your space.” And that individual responds with, “Yeah, but we’re doing fine.” When asked more pointedly, by the way, in that same interview, his response is basically, we’d have to slow down our business model too much to make this safe for the minors that we know we’re marketing to and are driving our game forward. So I tell you that context, because when we look at can this be held accountable, the answer is no, not because no one can do it. Like Google found a way that in point five of a second can give you a billion results and it can block all the naked ones when you’re in safe mode. Like it can do that. You can’t tell me that somehow that’s easier to do than making Roblox safe. Like the Falcon nine rocket boosters can land themselves so they can be reused later. You can’t tell me that that’s somehow easier than keeping Roblox safe. At the end of the day, it’s not that it’s not possible. It’s just they’re not really motivated to make it happen because they’re making a lot of money and it would slow the rate of money. Another a public trade, a publicly traded company. And he was pretty clear his main emphasis is keeping the money flowing, not keeping the kids safe. So when we look, is this game safe? Roblox is not safe for your child. It’s not all bad. There are upsides to it. But I mean, compared to even just a relatively similar game like Minecraft, Roblox is night and day less safe from the internet, access from the accountability, from the company focus from just the variety of content that is being created by other individuals. I mean, imagine if Reddit turned into a video game like that’s what you have with Roblox. It’s not a spot for little kids. Like if you an adult, you want to go there. Okay, we can talk about if that’s the best use of your time, but that’s not what we’re discussing. We’re talking about this game with our children, our child. It’s kind of said, “Hey, everyone in class is playing Roblox. Can I join in?” Is it safe? As our first question, the answer is no, just on a on a clean basis of of comparison with games. It’s it’s not a safe game for young people.
Nathan Sutherland [00:14:29] So let’s say, though, that we want to move along. And our second point, we know it’s not safe, but is it a good fit for our family? Like maybe we have a special situation where we’ve worked it out and we’re 100% sure that we can manage those safety pitfalls? Is it a good fit for our family expectation? So we’re going to take this in two parts. First part is, all right, is it a good fit for our family just in terms of content? And my favorite verse for this is Philippians 4:8. And I actually want to make sure I read this to make sure I get it right. So Philippians 4:8, it says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable. If there is anything excellent, if there’s anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” So when we go to shows or music or games, we have a really clear standard for Is it a good fit? Like, I don’t know. Is it true, honorable, just, pure? True, honorable, just, pure. That’s a beautiful start for this music. “Hey, Mom and Dad, can I listen to this album?” Is it true, honorable, just, pure? Didn’t say edgy. It didn’t say artistic. It doesn’t say enjoyable. It gives us something that’s a standard for our heart. Philippians 4:8 is beautiful in that because what we’re trying to do here is not find a legalistic line to walk. It’s finding kind of that loving level of like, All right, but like even my satisfaction is submitted to Jesus Christ. And if it’s not true, honorable, just, and pure. Then I might find satisfaction in it, but that’s not my standard anymore. Like my standard is Christ. So when we’re talking with our family, this becomes what we model as parents. This is the movies we go to, this the words we say, This is the. So when your kids ask, “Why can’t I swear?” Well, because in our culture, that word is considered to not be honorable and pure, at least maybe even not true. Right? Like if we start dropping some curse words, like if you think about what that word means, that’s not true. It’s not true from what God thinks about that person, it’s not true in what we should be thinking about them. It’s frankly just not words we should be saying as someone who loves God and is praying that God changes our hearts to look like His. Like this is the God who hates sin enough that He sent His own Son to die in our place because our sin was killing us. So we should reflect that to others. Maybe we should both dislike our own sin enough to repent and see God’s love for others.
Nathan Sutherland [00:16:56] So when we talk about our content, Philippians 4:8, but we talk video games specifically, there’s actually six things I like to look at. First would be we look at characters and there’s just six questions we asked first characters. Would we have this character over for dinner? Yes or no? Second is violence. Is violence part of the game or part of the game, right? So when it comes to characters, characters, just you, you’re not really pushed into any specific situation. It’s not anything really worse. I mean, Roblox, there are certainly games that have content, but not characters that you should really be concerned about, except that there’s characters in terms of individuals online that they’re going to run into. You can’t really control those. There’s certainly some age restrictions in areas, but really easy to circumnavigate, laughably easy to circumnavigate. And so would you have all of those individuals over to dinner? Probably not. But as far as the character you’re playing, just your kid, violence is a cartoon is. So the idea is, is it part of it or the point of it? It’s just part of it. For 99% of the games, violence is not going to be what holds you back. Then we get into language again, live people. So language is going to be concerning now in game language because it’s not about the plot of the game so much, but the individuals you run into. And there certainly is in game language in some of the areas that you can find on the fringes. But it’s going to be more the conversation of what are people saying? What are they typing? What does that look like? Then you’re going to run into. Let me make sure. So I said language. We have themes. So does the messaging of this game. So just know that some of these games in Roblox are like horror games. So Doors is one of the more famous games of last year. It’s just like a jump scare horror game kind of online with five nights Freddy five nights at Freddy’s. Just know that there are also kind of horror themed games. There’s fantastical themed games. There are certainly ones, again that fall inappropriate just on their basis. We don’t need to talk about those here, but note that you need to be looking into the theme. What is your child actually getting into when they’re engaging this content? Then we need to look at the time to beat. Because Roblox is a bunch of mini games, the variety can be very engaging. There’s not really a, “Well I beat this and I no longer need to play Roblox.” There’s always the new thing. There’s always that next thing, there’s always an update or new content release for a game that you liked or is being another example that got an update.
Nathan Sutherland [00:19:18] So just keep that in mind that the time to beat is probably going to be prohibitive for your young person. It’s going to be hard for them to walk away. It’s going to be something to watch. Just note it. The sixth one is the player experience. By this I simply am trying to get to. When your child plays this game, do they come away more present? That’s that’s really my desire for all the technology we engage. When you use it, are you more of who God designed you to be? Galatians 5:22 being our example, right? When your child plays this game and then they walk away from it, do they have more love and joy and peace and patience and kindness? Do they have more self-control and gentleness? Right. Like that’s what I want for our children when they engage any kind of technology. If they do and they come away looking more like Galatians 5:22 and that’s amazing. That’s technology we want to use. If, however, your child plays Roblox in this case and looks more like Galatians 5:19, I’ll read this because it’s good, The works of the flesh. So we have fruit of the spirit listed, which many of us memorized as young children, but listen to the fruits of the flesh. These are evident. It says sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. This is really important for us to look at because we’re not simply going, “Oh, that’s kind of scary and bad. I don’t want anything to do with that” because, no, it’s producing either Fruit of the Spirit, which is awesome, and I want so much more of that for my child and for myself or Fruit of the Flesh, which is not good. I mean, Romans 8:5 tells us that we either set our minds on the things, the spirit, or set things on the minds of the flesh, and that that’s an act. It’s a faithful, intentional decision. It does not mean you produce that fruit. Jesus says, We can’t do that. John 15:5, We are branches connected to the true vine He is the vine. We are the branches. And if we’re connected to Him, what do we do? We bear good fruit. What’s good fruit? Galatians 5:22 things like love, joy, peace. What’s not good fruit? The previous couple verses, right? 5:19 is not good when you have dissension and jealousy and anger and violence and lust when you have that stuff.
Nathan Sutherland [00:21:34] Well, all right. How’s my child coming away from this tech? It’s a nice way when we look at any video game to assess. Certainly Philippians 4:8. But further look at these six. Right? How do we walk through that so that the player experience and I have found personally in my work with young people, in my personal gaming experience, if it has micro-transactions, if it means you can buy things in-game, if it has competitive online play, like there’s a pro league of this game. So something like a Fortnite, I have found the game experience tends to drift into an unhealthy area and bring out some of the worst. Again, depending on the age of your player, depending on their personal maturity. This is what you’re looking for. We’ve talked previously about using a reset, looking at our relationships in response. Abilities, emotions, sleep, enjoyment and time. It’s another way to do that. I want to say for the game experience, if my child is more present, look at their reset. Is their reset improved or impeded by this game?
Nathan Sutherland [00:22:33] So that’s what we can look at with this game safe? Is it fit our family and is it a good fit for our child and this season, at this point in life and time? And the hope in doing this conversation is you can look at a game like Roblox and you can start and go, Hey, son or daughter you came to me and asked, “Can I play this game?” I’ve looked at it. It’s not safe, right? I mean, we looked at does it have internet and browser too, that have apps? Is it tool or drool tech? Does have accountability? It’s just not stacking up for what our family. So now we can either pick an alternative. Again, something like Minecraft might be an option for your family if you are like, we’re going to going to play this on a local computer or we’re going to do a shared server with friends or dad runs it. I had someone at a previous talk came up with like, “I’ve run a server for my son and friends.” Cool. I couldn’t do that because of my technological ability. But if you have the know how, that’s that can be really fun and your family knows how to do it and you’ve got your limits and expectations. Great.
Nathan Sutherland [00:23:28] Then we look at what about our family, though? And this is in life. Is this a good fit for our Philippians 4:8? And then is it a good fit just based on it’s grade as a video game? And again, Roblox, I would encourage you to look elsewhere for fun. I think there’s perks to it. There are good parts about it. I do not think it’s worth the fee of entry, especially with the leadership they currently have and the mindset they have about what this content is and who’s there and how they’re going to control it. There’s other ways to have fun. I think it’s a little too far for fun at this point.
Nathan Sutherland [00:24:01] Third would be, What about for my child? Do they produce good fruit? And this is just your personal level. When you watch your child play this game, when you watch them engage it, have that be an ongoing conversation about all the tech they have. But in this particular game, I would ask you if your child’s already in on it and you’ve already given the space, you have the expectations, you’ve already decided it’s safe, it fits and your child is playing it, then simply watch for ensuring that they’re they’re staying fully present, that this isn’t becoming the apex of their life, that this is what they go back to and everything else wilts. Yes, it’s creative. Yes, it’s engaging. Yes, they have friends on there, but none of those are our standard. Our standard is to look like Christ. That’s why Galatians 5:22 is our standard for what’s produced and playing these games. But this idea that, sure, everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial, everything is permissible, but not everything builds up. And we want that idea that everything we’re doing is making us more like Christ, right? It’s building us up in the way we should go and it’s not distracting us from it. That also helps us ensure that we’re being healthy with our fun because even our time is borrowed at this point. Like we died with Christ, we rose again to new life. We are new creation, save for good works as Ephesians 2:10 reminds us. And we want to make sure that our children are seeing that because that’s what Proverbs 22:6 is talking about when it says, “Raise your children up the way they should go.” We’re not just getting our games right. We’re getting the attitude and the heart of submissive and living in God’s gracious goodness on a daily basis, including with our games.
Nathan Sutherland [00:25:31] So I hope this was encouraging and helpful. So when you think about Roblox in this case, you can now have a conversation with your six year old because six year olds can have this conversation or your 16 year old. I hope that it helps you have a technological conversational win, if I can use that phrase. You’ll get a win in this conversation, not a victory over your child, but a victory with your child. Right? You’re not fighting your child when it comes to technology. You’re fighting for them. And that’s really important, I think, for us as parents to recognize that this isn’t just I need the right answer so that I can win so my kid won’t get messed up like they’re already messed up. They already need a savior. It’s not your fault. And the goal at the end of the day isn’t that they look more like you or they look more like me. The goal is they need to look more like Jesus than looking like you and me might actually be the problem. So this is a win to have this conversation with your child, to talk through safety and family expectations and your child’s purpose, whether this supports it.
Nathan Sutherland [00:26:32] Whether you decide yes or no. Again, that’s not the point. The point is how did you get there? And what are you going to do next? if you need help building a family framework, kind of that conversation around how do we even talk about tech as a family? Just we need a starting spot. Check out the Gospel Tech workshop now you can go gospel tech framework dot com. I had to make sure I got the link right but gospel tech framework dot com now Gospeltechworkshop.com. Yeah that’s why I had to think of it. All right it is gospeltechworkshop.com is the family tech framework that’s why my words got switched and you can go on there that’s an online course. I also do live presentations so you can bring me into your church or your small group or your CC and we can run through how do we how do we make that? But first we want to have these conversations about how are we walking out our faith lovingly in this area of tech? So, I hope this is encouraging to you. I was helpful. If it was, would you consider sharing it with someone who might be able to benefit from this? And would you join us next time as we continue this conversation about how we can love God and use tech.