Is Minecraft Really Safe for Kids?

Sep 17, 2021 | 0 Votes by Mel - rate Your vote
As the highest selling video game of all time, Minecraft has not only been a favorite of adult enthusiasts across the globe, it is also one of the most popular games among children. Many parents, however, have trouble fully understanding both the deeply immersive nature of the game enough to question whether Minecraft is actually a safe space for their children to play and create in—which this article will try to answer.
Games Educate Kids - Is Minecraft Really Safe for Kids?

Minecraft is a child-friendly sandbox-adventure video game designed in a blocky style similar to LEGO. The game is considered "sandbox" because it provides a limitless creative landscape with no fixed goals and infinite opportunities to imagine, explore, create, and encounter adventures that test real-life critical thinking, problem-solving, and adaptation skills. Like any playground, Minecraft doesn't come with instructions, and it's relatively simple to pick up and play through experimentation, exploration, and external research. The more you play, the more your Minecraft world expands and the greater your learned experiences on how to “live” and survive in it.

After downloading the Minecraft game, the player will first need to create a world and name it. Then you set off exploring it, gathering materials, and building your world as you go. Meanwhile, as you go about building and exploring, you might encounter characters called hostile mobs, which could be spiders, zombies, and “Endermen” monsters. Depending on the Minecraft’s Modes of Play: Adventure, Creative, and Survival (each with four levels of difficulty: Peaceful, Easy, Normal, and Hard), you can determine how dangerous the mobs are, what actions affect your health stats, and even add other challenges. Your world, your choice. You determine how challenging your Minecraft world will be, and you can either play it by yourself or against others in a multiplayer environment.

In Survival mode, players build their world by gathering natural resources such as wood and stone found in the environment in order to create certain blocks and items. Adventure mode is similar to Survival, except instead of just surviving in your own world, you can play on downloadable game maps created by other players. Creative mode is the best—and safest—option for novices and younger players—giving you full access to all the resources in the game so you can build endlessly without worrying about the characters dying or fending off mobs (which you'll see but won’t bother you).

In general, the Minecraft gaming environment is a conceptually safe sandbox for children to play in. But because it is also an all-digital, multiplayer sphere with open communication channels; however, unlike playing with LEGOs in the familiar comforts of your own home, your child is playing in the vast world wide web—which is a less predictable space to maneuver in. As parents, it is, thus, their responsibility to ensure their child’s Minecraft sandbox is monitored and kept safe as possible.

What can kids learn in Minecraft?

According to a 2016 BBC News report, more than 7,000 classrooms around the world already use Minecraft in some form (including the new curriculum-based Minecraft: Education Edition for use in classrooms) due to the fact that its focus on building allows for exploration and creative expression—instead of imposing a rigid structure—that can be good for learning because they stimulate critical thinking, problem-solving, geometry concepts, collaborative skills, and systems thinking.

Minecraft can even help a child learn to code. Children can edit the original Minecraft code as mods to make the game behave in different ways. If they want to take it further, your child can even modify or debug the program using Java code.

Used correctly and strategically as part of your child’s curriculum, Minecraft can help your child develop an early solid background in core STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects which are critical in the modern workplace. And with the game’s collaborative and chat components, your child also has the potential to learn valuable negotiation, project planning, and teamwork skills that are essential to future employment success.

Community and online

In order for your child to safely play on Minecraft’s multiplayer platform, on the other hand, parents will first need to understand Minecraft’s reliance on the multiple Servers that make up its giant network infrastructure. A Server is a software setup that lets players organize and control multiplayer games. If you're playing in multiplayer mode, you either have to know the name of the Server you want to join or get invited by its host. Thousands of dedicated Servers exist on the Minecraft platform, ranging from small, private Servers reserved for a handful of friends, to huge, million-member communities that tailor gameplay to a specific audience.

That said, it is important for parents to be aware of the types of game Servers their children are joining and to make sure that they are not being invited to inappropriate or adult-oriented ones. Some popular kid and family-friendly Minecraft Servers to consider for your child include, Cubeville, Towncraft, Autcraft (a Server for those on the Autism spectrum), Blocklandia, and Crazypig. Many of these Servers require players to be Whitelisted, meaning the player will have to be vetted through an application process before being accepted into the group as a player. And while it may be a slightly annoying extra step just to be able to play a game, most parents accept the requirement in order to guarantee their child’s safety in that space.

Another concern with Minecraft’s multiplayer mode is its fairly open Chat features, where pretty much anyone can send a text/chat/voice message to a fellow Server member, even those you don’t know. Some Servers disable this feature, while most don’t. You can, however, use Minecraft’s Privacy Settings to hide the chat window; or alternatively, simply join a server organized by someone you know, or set up your own.

Better yet, ensure your kids are playing with other kids they already know by only allowing them to play Minecraft on console (Xbox, PlayStation, Nintendo Switch, 3DS, and Wii) where you just need to know your friends' gamertags or player IDs to add them to your session.

Is the game safe/appropriate for kids?

Because of its complexity, potential for mild violence, and unfiltered online community, Minecraft is typically recommended for kids ages 8 and up. In fact, for many children, it is one of their first video game experiences online.

While you are not asked for proof of age when you are setting up an account, you are asked for your birthday when setting up an account. If the game registers that you are under 13 then certain elements are locked, including making in-game purchases. However, it is very easy for a child to be aware of these restrictions and choose to enter a birth year that allows them full access to all the features. That’s why parental supervision should be practiced ensuring your child isn’t doing anything with the game you don’t approve of behind your back.

That said, it is easy to choose the Minecraft mode that meets your safety requirements. For example, single-player Creative mode on the Peaceful setting, for example, allows no interaction with others and no conflict. But because most kids will eventually want to play with others, they will likely gravitate toward the multiplayer Servers, its open nature which, naturally, will expose them to potential risks, including strong language, bullying, mature content, and adult situations depending on the Server and the amount of moderation that it has.

The level of Violence on Minecraft, meanwhile, depends on the difficulty level. On the higher difficulty levels, you'll need to fend off—and sometimes kill—various scary creatures, including the infamous Ender Dragon. If you choose to fight, though, hearts appear around the monster to show damage is being taken instead of any visible injuries or blood. So, while Minecraft is not really considered to be scary or overly violent, you still know your child’s limits best and should be able to make an educated guess as to whether your child would find Minecraft too frightening or violent.

In-game elements to talk to your kids about

Again, the safety of your children while playing Minecraft is largely dependent on the multiplayer Server they are on. Since most of the Servers are hosted by strangers or by other unsupervised children, the rules and moderation levels—and the type of fellow players—can vary greatly. Parents should make their child aware of the unwritten social rules and potential interactions that may occur in a particular Server before going on it. A child who may be vulnerable to being bullied, for example, can easily be led by more ill-intentioned players into bullying game situations where they are manipulated or even "killed". This can be upsetting and confusing to some children.

Although there are some plugins that allow you to report users who break Server rules to their moderators; unfortunately, the Minecraft platform itself currently does not have any substantial “Report Abuse” features, so, it is up to the parents and their guidance to help the child manage expectations when joining a server.

Another unique component of the Minecraft game-playing experience is the sheer abundance of YouTube videos of people playing Minecraft which kids tend to watch for a wide variety of reasons, such as to learn new techniques; enjoy others' skills; keep up with the latest news; feel like part of a community; and simply for entertainment. As long as your child is watching age-appropriate Minecraft channels and balancing their screen time with other activities, watching other people play video games on YouTube can be treated similar to how you monitor their other video-watching practices.

If your child plays Minecraft on mobile, Windows 10 PC, or any of their console versions, take note that these offer in-game purchases via Minecraft Marketplace for items such as costumes, skins, textures, or adventure maps for the player to use while in the game. And while the Marketplace is a generally secure area to use “Minecoins” to make purchases, there have been cases of hackers using in-app purchases to scam children into buying dubious in-game items. To avoid these potential situations, parents should be in total control of the payment methods and amounts used on the platform as well as educate their children on responsible spending online.

Finally, the riskiest safety issue on the Minecraft platform is, again, its liberal Chat features, especially on poorly moderated multiplayer Servers. Be aware that Minecraft has unfiltered and unverified text chat on PC and that your child will be able to send and receive messages of any kind if they play online, making them potentially vulnerable—both ways—to bullying, abuse, inappropriate language and content, scams, and even predation.

And while there are many valuable tips parents can rely on to help them talk to their kids about avoiding online bullying and abuse; on the basest level, it is important that children avoid divulging any personal information about themselves, and to forbid them from moving their conversations into other online areas, especially private ones where conversations could become more personal. Better yet, parents should advise their children not to accept friend requests from strangers and to encourage them to report any inappropriate behavior that they may encounter while on Minecraft.

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