Advice Column, Parenting, Tech

Should You Let Your Child Play Minecraft?

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  • Category Advice Column, Parenting, Tech

A client of mine asked me what I thought about her child playing Minecraft on the family computer. She said he is constantly begging her to let him play and complains that all of his friends are playing it. This child’s school is even dabbling with allowing the kids to use it in the classroom. My simple answer was YES, but it comes with a more complex HOW and WHEN to let him play it. Let me explain in more detail.

What is it?

Minecraft is an interesting and time-consuming game that was created in 2011 by an independent company Mojang, a Swedish software developer. In September of this year, the company was purchased by Microsoft for $2.5 million. The developers also released another game called Scrolls.

This first person, sandbox type of game has few rules, no story line, and allows users to create items and buildings from resources they find around them. It is an open-ended, exploration type of game that also has monsters the users can fight using swords and bows. This game is a bit primitive from a graphics standpoint and there is no blood and gore. Many have referred to it as a Legos-type video game.

The Positives

Kids who play this game develop problem-solving and design-thinking skills. They learn creative thinking, geometry and even a little geology as they create imaginative block structures and collaborate with others in building structures and communities. With this game, they can use their imagination to build and show off their digital creations. Experts suggest that children be 11 years of age and older, yet many parents believe that children as young as 8 years can master it and learn.

The Drawbacks

Parents need to know that this game is part of a large online community, hosted by private, adult-run servers that are not moderated in any way. This means that your child can be contacted by adult strangers online through chat conversations, who play the game and participate. Other risks include your child being exposed to adult-natured conversations, profanity, and sexually oriented objects or digital images (for example, phallic-shaped buildings).

Precautions

Many parents will think that the benefits to their child of allowing them to play, outweigh the risks if some rules and boundaries are set in place. Here are some suggestions if you decide to allow your child to play Minecraft. Locate a common-use computer in a well-traveled area of your home where your child can play the game. This will allow you and other adults to “check in” and observe your child as they play. Ban all computers from bedrooms of children and younger teens. Limit your child’s play of Minecraft to 30 – 60 minutes on weekdays and no more than 2 hours on weekend days. Setting these limits will keep time on the game in perspective with the rest of your child’s world, and make more time for active play, reading, homework and family time. Engage your child in conversation about the game and their experiences often. Invite them to show you what they are building and consider participating with them on some level, especially if they are under the age of 11. Finally, get to know the parents of your child’s friends they visit for playtime in their homes. Find out what supervision and computer access your child may have there when they visit and play.

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