What is Minecraft and is it safe for children?
Minecraft is an open-world building game that seems to creep into every aspect of life when you have a child.
January 8, 2023
WHAT IS MINECRAFT?
Minecraft is an open-world building game that seems to creep into every aspect of life when you have a child. Perhaps one of the most popular video games of all time, Minecraft has multiple ways for users to explore the game and interact online.
Minecraft can be found on basically anything with a screen. Once your child is hooked, expect it to pop up on the phone, tablet, console, computer… Also expect A LOT of chat and excitement around the topic. Children become obsessed!
At its core, the game challenges users to mine resources and subsequently use them to build structures and worlds. Difficulty can be adjusted between Peaceful, Easy, Normal, and Hard. Users can also play in the following modes for a choice of experiences.
- ADVENTURE. This mode allows users to enter into other’s maps and view content created by other users. You will encounter enemies, missions, and need to manage your health as you fight off invaders.
- CREATIVE. This play is best for young players. Users either randomly generate a landscape, or build on a flat empty plane. There is no health, enemies, or dying in this mode.
- SURVIVAL. Survival mode has shades of zombie games. Players must mine and construct a shelter, food source, defenses, and reputation with villagers. At night zombies attack the camp and players engage in some level of violence. (not gory but not great either…)
MINECOINS AND SHOPPING ON MINECRAFT
Minecraft is free to download and pay but beware, it doesn’t stay that way! Premium accounts and other upgrades are available. And yes, there are IN GAME PURCHASES!!! So get ready to hear a lot begging for “Minecoins.”
Minecoins are needed to buy the over-hyped Mods and Skins you kid probably cannot live without. They can also be a great bargaining chip for chores and/or allowance, but be careful. The costs of Minecoins can add up quickly so ensure you are setting limits and PINS on your saved cards.
MINECRAFT DICTIONARY (A FEW CHOICE WORDS)
Inside Minecraft you will find a lot of lingo surrounding the available experiences available on the platform. Here is our quick little guide to some words you will hear pass from the lips of your sweet little child once the obsession has taken over.
- MOD- modifications available from third-party sellers in exchange for Minecoins
- SERVER- community hosted and moderated by another user. Always use trusted servers if your child is playing online
- MINECOINS- Minecraft’s form of currency available for purchase. Can be exchanged for mods and skins in the online shop
- SKINS- outfits and styles for the player’s avatar
- ZOMBIES- yes, zombies. Attack the user in the game. Baddies
- NETHER- an underworld where strange things happen
IS MINECRAFT SAFE FOR CHILDREN?
Under certain conditions, YES, Minecraft is safe for children. Understanding and using restrictions and controls available inside the game is key for keeping children safe (and focused) in their play. Parents must be proactive so continued review and monitoring of your child’s play is crucial.
HOW OLD DO YOU NEED TO BE TO PLAY MINECRAFT?
It seems the consensus on this point varies from source to source. The advice ranges from ages 8-12. If you’ve ever been in public though, you have surely seen that Minecraft and its adjacent products are marketed to much younger children (5+).
My personal recommendations are based around the use of restrictions. Children as young as five can enjoy a highly restricted version of the game. Depending on a parent's personal views on video games, I would argue that a healthy amount of world-building video games (OFFLINE) can provide a creative outlet for young children (and maybe some quiet time for everyone else too.)
WHAT ARE THE RISKS?
Like other online portals and games, there is a significant difference between playing online and offline. I am quite hesitant to allow my children to play online with strangers until a much older age, and only then with a strong education of the risks.
Most of the risks come from interacting with strangers and peers over the game. Since users can enter into each other’s worlds and games, they can be exposed to mature content such as strong language, violence, and sexual content. I haven’t found Minecraft to be an overly dubious virtual space, but I’m also sure it's out there (call me a skeptic..)
Of course we cannot fail to mention the potential risks of young people being approached online by various lecherous predators. Children should be educated in an age-appropriate way about interacting with strangers online. Their online access should be HEAVILY restricted until they are at minimum age 12; many could argue even older.
RESEARCH AND STAY-UP TO DATE
If your child is playing online expect to add a couple more things to your to-do list. Researching and staying informed are musts when it comes to “meta-world” type games. No doubt if your kid watches any of the endless YouTube content on Minecraft you will hear about the new trends, for better or for worse.
Which brings us to another important task, MONITORING. Regularly watch their play, listen in on those YouTubers, review the settings and controls every now and then. I find my own children are eager to show me what they have been building, and I’m always blown away by their creativity and vision, so there are many positives and even moments of joy to be had!
WHAT TO READ NEXT AND OTHER RESOURCES
Given the massive scale and numerous ways to play, there are numerous guides and blogs on navigating Minecraft. If your child is particularly interested in certain aspects of the game, educate yourself on that topic.
Ultimately, Minecraft can be an excellent tool to teach kids a number of skills while supporting creativity and imagination but active participation is key for parents to steer their child’s experience.
Below find some of our sources and more in-depth articles on Minecraft and its cousin Roblox.