5 Things About Minecraft That Worry Parents

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I recently ran some workshops for our parents based around Minecraft and its role in their children’s lives. The conversations were enlightening and informative. Parents are excited but wary (and weary) of Minecraft and have many tales of tantrums but also fun and laughter to share when engaged in talking about Minecraft. It is very important for our parents to understand the positive aspects and how to face up to the difficulties of parenting in a digital age.

So here are 5 things about Minecraft that worry parents that I derived from the conversations I had. My proposed “solutions” to allay those fears are included also.

Photo: Natasha Buckley ISS International School


1. The “addictive” nature of Minecraft


Why the worrying?
Mojang freely admit that Minecraft can be…highly engaging…”just one more block” “just one more block”. One parent told me of how their child had meltdowns when asked to stop Minecraft and rejoin the reality of eating with their family again. The parent had already remedied the situation by setting clear boundaries and moderated use of all digital tools in the household. My thoughts exactly!

Stop the worrying!
If the child has the free reign to do whatever they like, whenever they like then, of course, there will be meltdowns when what they perceive as their free time are ceased at any given moment. Children need to be involved in planning out with their parents their daily diet of activities. There needs to be absolutely no doubt what amount of time is allowed to do various things on any given day.


2. The “passive” culture of the Minecraft YouTube scene


Why the worrying?
Riding along in tandem with young people’s engagement with actually playing Minecraft is an increased engagement in merely watching Minecraft videos on YouTube. I guess I would be a little perturbed as a parent if my child just constantly watched videos of Minecraft now and didn’t actually spend time in the game creating and exploring. But it is happening.

Stop the worrying!
Parents need to delve deep in to the videos their children are watching to, first of all, make sure they are appropriate and second of all, to try to gleam any learning or inspiration their children can bring in to their own Minecraft worlds. There are countless videos out there from amazing people who can inspire creativity but there are also countless videos that contain swear words and less than polite communication skills! Parents need to know how to sieve out the good content from the bad content that their children watch.


3. The “balance” of play


Why the worrying?
It’s very confusing as a parent to find any solid information on how long a child should spend in front of a digital screen. Stories abound of bad eyesight, posture, and mental disposition after spending too long on digital devices. The same parents may not see any problem in seeing their child sit for 2 hours with their nose in a book.  One of the only organizations out there to actually give concrete guidelines to parents on “screen-time” is The American Academy of Pediatrics who state:

The AAP recommends that parents establish “screen-free” zones at home by making sure there are no televisions, computers or video games in children’s bedrooms, and by turning off the TV during dinner. Children and teens should engage with entertainment media for no more than one or two hours per day, and that should be high-quality content. It is important for kids to spend time on outdoor play, reading, hobbies, and using their imaginations in free play. – See more at: https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx#sthash.Nzk3JjNL.dpuf

Stop the worrying!
Easy right?! I think the above quote is a solid piece of advice for parents to look at but every household and, indeed, house is different. One would argue that “using their imagination in free play” can be achieved in Minecraft. One would also argue that “using their imagination in free play” can only be achieved in the real world with absolutely no physical or digital restrictions. The key word, again, is balance. Creating a balanced approach to daily routines and activities is the most important thing to develop in a household and that would naturally include guidelines on screen time.


4. The “violence” of Minecraft


Why the worrying?
When I talk to parents about what we do with Minecraft they instantly are very happy to hear the details of the curriculum integration we achieve. They are happy because all they see at home is swords flailing and mass slaughtering of animals. From my experience children’s use of Minecraft at home and at school is pretty different. At home, they mainly choose survival. At our school, we always use creative. At home, children may have the free reign of what they can build, destroy and kill. At our school, we need to have rules in place (co-created by students) so we can utilize our time effectively to reach (and assist) our learning goals.

Stop the worrying!
Parents need to educate themselves a little on what collaborative, creative, artistic, design based, and programming projects exist out there using Minecraft and realize that their children can learn some important skills from doing the same type of projects at home. Is there any real positive aspect to Minecraft if it’s just killing zombies or animals? Probably not. Unless parents want their children to be butchers, hunters, or zombie slayers in the future. Who knows..?


5. The “exposure” of children to bullying and inappropriate content


Why the worrying?
When children get exposed to platforms like Minecraft there are a number of worrisome factors that come along with that. Namely that you are going to either see inappropriate content, hear inappropriate content or experience inappropriate content explicitly directed at them. From watching YouTube videos one only needs to scroll down to see the wild west of the internet in the comments section. Anything goes. If you get involved or if, indeed, you are the uploader you are the next target. The world is not perfect, someone will take an exception to what you are saying or doing.
When children get involved in multiplayer servers or set up servers for themselves they are perhaps experiencing digital relationships for the first time in their lives. The disconnect between the real world and digital happens. Inappropriate behavior and communication comes easier when you can’t see the other person’s face and emotional reactions. Especially for the younger person.

Stop the worrying!
I like to present this as a challenge to parents to get involved watching YouTube videos and discussing Minecraft content in a positive manner at home. Bad experiences within Minecraft servers or in YouTube comments, if observed by parents, can be massive learning moments for the child in gaining an understanding of ethical and moral behavior in the world today. When we have issues in our school server we can coral our classes into learning how to behave in digital realms. Everything’s a learning moment and rather we are there with them when it happens than not.
So there you have it. Not so scary after all if parents take the time to educate themselves so they can parent their child through this sometimes challenging digital era.

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