Minecraft is a virtual 3D game that allows users to create unlimited worlds using online building blocks while unlocking resources along the way. From cities to rollercoasters, the possibilities are nearly endless. We at GKIS are big fans of Minecraft because it fosters creativity, problem-solving, new skill development, and socialization opportunities. But like any online tool, there are also associated risks. This GKIS Sensible Guide provides information that parents need to optimize Minecraft’s benefits while keeping your children safe.
How long has Minecraft been around and how popular is it?
Minecraft was created in 2011 by Swedish game developer Markus Persson and purchased by Microsoft in 2014. Nearly 176 million copies were sold by late 2019. In 2019, Minecraft has over 112 million players every month and can be played on various platforms including smartphones, tablets, Xbox, and other gaming stations. It has evolved to include more elements and has a series of spin-off g
ames with different themes. Users also post Let’s Play videos YouTube to show how they build their worlds and different ways to create items.
Getting Started on Minecraft
According to Minecraft’s Terms of Service, “If you are young and you are having trouble understanding these terms and conditions, please ask a responsible adult such as your parent or guardian.” Minecraft also insists that children under age 13 have their parents download and register for an account. However, children can easily change their age before signing up to go around that rule.
Minecraft varies in price depending on the type of platform. Signing up for an account is simple. Just create an account with a unique username and email address. Users are given one profile by default but have the option to make multiple profiles.
Features of Minecraft
Minecraft allows users to collect resources and build their own worlds. Users can dig, build, and enchant items to transform their world into whatever they want. Users can also select different game modes, each with unique challenges and features.
- One of the main game modes
- Players must collect resources, build structures, battle mobs, find food.
- The goal is to survive and thrive.
- Players are able to build with an unlimited number of blocks.
- Players are given all the items needed to build.
- Mobs still exist, but there is no threat to survival.
- Players are able to fly around the world.
- Players use maps to navigate the world.
- Depending on the device played on, blocks can either be destroyed or placed.
- Hunger and dying is possible.
- Users have the ability to fly around and observe the worlds without interacting with it
- Players are invisible and can move through blocks and buildings.
- Available only on the online version.
- The world is locked to hard difficulty and the player cannot respawn after they die.
- Only specific worlds enable hardcore mode and not individual players.
Minecraft has two different play modes, single-player and multiplayer. In single-player mode, a user only interacts with their own character and their own world. In multiplayer, users can join any game with any player, friends or strangers. Parents have the ability to sign their child up for a family-friendly multiplayer mode that is supervised and has restrictions on the chats and interactions.
The Benefits of Minecraft
Minecraft allows players to use their imagination and create what they desire. Users develop problem-solving skills while they are creating their world. Minecraft also helps users develop computer literacy skills, teamwork, and collaboration. For example, while in multiplayer mode, players are able to communicate and work together to build their worlds. Mathematics and spacial skills are also developed while playing the game. For example, it takes six planks to build one door. If players have 60 planks, they can calculate how many doors they are able to build.
Parents have the ability to limit their child to only single-player mode or a family-friendly version of multiplayer. There are several Minecraft servers that have been designed for children in mind. They are designed with a code of conduct and have full moderation. Parents are able to sign their children on to a family-friendly server where they will be safe from interacting with strangers in a negative way.
The Risks of Minecraft
There are relatively few risks for children playing Minecraft. With the exception of playing too often, for too long, or getting frustrated with gameplay, single-player mode is relatively safe because kids can be restricted from interacting with players they don’t know. However, violence can be easily found in the game. For example, there are multiple ways to kill users, mobs, or animals, such as:
- setting another player on fire using lava or a torch
- hanging an animal or another player
- using canons and bombs
- using sand to trap and suffocate mobs
- using a zombie as a weapon to kill a villager
- shooting with a gun or stabbing with a sword
There is also a chance for cyberbullying in multiplayer mode. It is not uncommon to come across a user who is intentionally irritating and harassing other users. They often use parts of the game in unintended ways. For example, they may curse, cheat, and kill without reason. Cyberbullying also includes players who deliberately kick players off the server and anger others for their own enjoyment.
Multiplayer mode carries the risk of children chatting with strangers. For example, in 2017 a Minecraft user was jailed for meeting two children on Minecraft and persuading them to carry out sexual acts. [i]
There is a potential for users to track down your IP address from playing Minecraft. An IP address is n unique number for an internet network. The IP address provides the location of where your network is coming from. If users are able to hack into the server, they can find another player’s IP address. This can lead the user to the location of the player within a couple of miles.
If your child wants to play Minecraft, GKIS recommends that you:
- Add it to your free GKIS Connected Family Agreement (If you haven’t downloaded it yet, enter your name and email on our GetKidsInternetSafe home page and it will be emailed immediately)
- Discuss the risks of chatting with strangers with your child. For ideas about how to do this, check out our GKIS Connected Family Course.
- Add sensible filters and monitors on your devices with recommendations from our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit.
GetKidsInternetSafe rates Minecraft as a green-light app due to the safety of the game and the benefits it can have on children’s development. Dr. Bennett has found that her kids and the kids in her practice love Minecraft when they are young and even return to it as teens! They tell her they appreciate the simplicity of it and especially love the relatively stress-free atmosphere with no in-game purchase requirements.
Thank you to CSUCI intern Makenzie Stancliff for writing this article. If you love to encourage creativity with your kids, you won’t want to miss the Makerspace ideas in our Connected Family Course.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
[i] Herd, G. (2017, January 20). Minecraft: Grooming dangers for children gaming online. Retrieved from https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-wales-38284216.