Roblox: Kids use games to stay in touch with their real-life friends

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Teenagers who use the virtual gaming world of Roblox say that they are using games such as Roblox to stay in touch with their real-life friends, according to a survey by the company. They’re also playing online games a lot more, and they’re going online with their parents’ permission.

Roblox found that 52% of teens spend the same or more time with real-life friends in Roblox, other online games, or voice/chat programs during the pandemic. San Mateo, California-based Roblox has more than 120 million monthly active users, and the company said that 69% of those surveyed are playing more on Roblox because of more time at home and parental approval for online learning. Roblox’s players generate roughly 2.5 billion hours of engagement per month.

Roblox surveyed nearly 3,000 teens in mid-May as part of the company’s Digital Civility Initiative. The majority of respondents say they like to play their favorite games (79%), try out new games (64%), and also have conversations (62%), emphasizing the importance of social interactions as part of their experience on the platform

Laura Higgins, director of community safety and digital civility at Roblox, said in an interview with GamesBeat that 40% of teens say that they have improved their online friendships during the pandemic.

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“We definitely saw an uplift in the platform,” Higgins said. “Screen time has gone up for all families. Adults have more understanding now. People are socializing online.”

During COVID-19, teens surveyed are currently hanging out more with their online Roblox friends (56%) compared to their real-life friends (44%).

Among the top advantages of online friendships, they list acceptance without regard for appearance (35%) and the ease of making friends quickly (32%). Teens also note they can lean on their online friends to discuss difficult topics such as COVID-19 (25%).

“They’re choosing spaces online where they can sit and socialize and hang out with their friends,” Higgins said. “Teens love being able to talk to people from different countries and from different cultures and sharing that and even to the point of learning languages from each other. They are going out of their way to hang out with their real-life friends in online platforms.”

Teens said they don’t worry as much about how they look anymore, and that is one less reason they might be bullied, Higgins said. Teens are also experiencing the Roblox community at large as more helpful (44%), friendly (34%), and patient (26%).

“The relationship changes were surprising,” Higgins said. “Online relationships are getting better. There is less pressure on how you should act. The young people are finding others are more patient or more helpful and it felt a bit more positive.”

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