27-year-old Darius Matylewich has been charged with first-degree kidnapping and third-degree endangering the welfare of a child after meeting an 11-year-old girl from Wayne, New Jersey, allegedly on Roblox, grooming her, then taking her 130 miles away from her home.
Matylewich convinced the girl to leave her home and go with him 130 miles away, across state lines. According to an ABC 7 report, police from the girl’s town were called around 6:45 a.m. on September 10 for a report of a missing child.
Thankfully, she was found soon after that, but there aren’t always happy endings to these types of stories.
Roblox is one of the most popular gaming platforms in the country with more than 50% of kids and teens under 16 playing daily. Nearly half of its users are under the age of 13. As of April 2021, Roblox has 202 million monthly active users.
And while a spokesperson for Roblox told HuffPost that Matyleqich and the 11-year-old didn’t meet on their platform based on their internal investigation and they have zero tolerance for sexual content of any kind, Jennifer Fetterman, the chief assistant prosecutor with the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office confirmed in the article that the girl had communicated on several online gaming platforms—which included Roblox.
So how do we keep our kids safe while playing games online in our super connected world?
According to an article on ChildLine, parents need to have kids choose a safe username that doesn’t include anything about your child’s name or any identifying information, have their children be careful about what they share with others online, have them think about the people they’re playing with, and parents need to be vigilant about checking privacy settings, chats, purchases and gameplay.
Matylewich is in custody by local police and faces a maximum 30 years in state prison.