Ever wonder what the heck your child means when they talk about Ender Dragons, mods, survival vs. adventure mode, or griefing?
You’re not alone.
Last week, the gaming experts at iD Tech hosted our first ever online session to decode and demystify the world of Minecraft for parents of techie kids.
Turns out, parents have quite a few questions about navigating servers, online safety, and generally translating gamer-speak. Ricky Bennett, VP of Innovation & Partnerships and EJ Fernald, EDU Support Specialist were ready to help!
In their interactive workshop, Ricky and EJ (better known to us by their camp nicknames, Firefox and Trogdor), broke down some of parents’ most frequently asked questions, while adding tips and tricks for everything from managing peaceful gaming time to the educational benefits of Minecraft.
Minecraft 101 Questions & Answers
So, here are some of the key takeaways from Minecraft 101 for Parents! For easy answers to some of the most pertinent questions out there, we’ll break down this recap for you Q&A style.
Safety, Screen Time, and How to Deal with Screaming Influencers
There’s no doubt that “screen time” is a hot button issue at the forefront of many parents’ minds—especially nearly one year into virtual school for some families. Ricky and EJ kicked things off here.
Q: My kid gets really loud while playing Minecraft, and I need a peaceful environment for work/ my sanity. Any advice?
As Ricky rightly pointed out, many of the top influencers (YouTube personalities that kids love to watch play Minecraft and other video games) yell, scream, and otherwise have intense reactions to gameplay; that boisterous persona is part of how they gain followers, after all. Kids will emulate these influencers, hence the high-volume game time.
The remedy? Our experts recommend talking with your child about this and reinforcing expectations with a decibel monitoring app. They track noise levels and provide visual cues when kids need to tone it down, cutting down on the amount of verbal reminders needed from you.
Q: How can I help my child detach from Minecraft?
Detachment from video games, aka transitioning to homework, bedtime, or any other activity found in your typical after-school routine, has very real neurological challenges for kids. Many games are designed with instant rewards and a purposefully action-packed environment, which increase kids’ dopamine and adrenaline levels. These chemicals create happiness and can even elevate blood pressure, so it’s no wonder transitions can be a struggle.
To help ease that transition, Ricky recommends a 10-minute “ramp down” to end game time more smoothly. Play Minecraft alongside your child, or simply sit with them and ask questions about the game. This will allow kids to calm down and start redirecting their attention away from the screen.
Q: How do I make sure my child is safe on Minecraft?
It’s every parent’s #1 priority (and ours), so naturally Ricky and EJ had a number of excellent suggestions. While online gaming has inherent risks, there are steps parents can take to mitigate them.
-To eliminate most risks, single player Minecraft is a great option!
-Set up a LAN server (this means kids need to be on the same internet connection to access Minecraft together), thereby limiting who can interact with while still enjoying the social benefits of the game. Here’s a guide to how to play Minecraft with friends and one for setting up your own Minecraft server!
-Download with care. While there are lots of fun, safe Minecraft add-ons like mods (more on those later) there is definitely questionable material out there; we recommend vetting from a grown-up. So, talk with your child about a download policy that will keep them (and their hardware) safe.
-Apps like Discord may be all the rage, but they should be avoided; it’s too easy for strangers to activate voice chat with your child. Encourage them to use FaceTime, Facebook Messenger Kids, or other more controlled chat apps.
Q: Can Minecraft be educational? How?
Absolutely! In fact, Microsoft is currently developing an entire teacher’s guide to the game; we can’t wait to see what they come up with in addition to the math content already out there.
In the meantime, Minecraft is an excellent way to introduce coding concepts to kids. Java, a primary language used in all AP computer science classes, not to mention professional programming, is compatible with Minecraft. Constructive game time that incorporates Java is an ideal way to connect valuable programming skills with the game kids already love.
If you have a younger student who loves to build and interact with the game, they’re steps away from becoming a budding game designer! The key lies in interweaving critical thinking and creativity with game play; here’s a starter guide to the ways you can help get your child coding with Minecraft.
Q: I get motion sickness while playing alongside my child—any pointers?
This is very understandable, and yes! Switch views by pressing F5, and you won’t be quite as zoomed in.
Minecraft-Speak Decoded: A Parent’s Reference to Gaming Terms
Q: What is a Minecraft server?
These are important to understand from a safety perspective, so it’s a great question! A Minecraft server is the environment in which kids play the game, and they can be public or private.
On private servers, kids can choose who they want to play with, or they can explore the game solo. These are considered safer, especially for young players; here’s a quick guide to setting those up.
Public servers can be fun, but they should be approached with a degree of caution. Kids don’t have as much control over the content they’ll see or who may approach them via chat. There are numerous kid-friendly public servers out there, but it’s always a good idea to take a look yourself to make sure you’re comfortable with the environment.
Q: What does “open world” mean?
You’ll hear this term thrown around a lot in Minecraft; it essentially means that the Minecraft world is infinite, and kids can explore it endlessly without needing to beat levels like in other video games. Minecraft will automatically generate new environments, or biomes, and kids can adventure, build, and wander to their hearts’ content.
Q: What’s a Minecraft mod?
Think mod = modification. There are thousands of Minecraft mods, each of them designed to change the game in some way, whether with a special environment, speeding up the game, or through some other customization. Really, mods are a big part of why kids love Minecraft. Plus, mods a surefire way to motivate kids to learn to code their own Minecraft mods!
Q: What is griefing in video games?
If you hear “Someone griefed me” or “Billy is griefing!”; that’s not good! To “grief” in Minecraft is to destroy another player’s creation or prevent them from respawning (coming back to life). It’s equivalent to bullying within the game, and while unfortunately there isn’t an official way to “grief-proof” Minecraft, private servers are a great preventative step, along with these tips and tricks.
Q: What’s a Minecraft mob?
A Minecraft Mob is an enemy; zombies, skeletons, “endermen”—oh my! Mobs must be defeated in order to survive. They appear in most modes in Minecraft in adventure and survival modes of Minecraft; however, when signing on to the game, players can select the “peaceful” setting to avoid them completely. (And to combine this with the above, yes, a mob mod is a thing!)
Q: How can people make money with Minecraft?
While Roblox, quite rightly, is better known for its monetization potential, Minecraft also offers players the opportunity to make money with the game.
How? By creating worlds (servers) that other players want to play and are willing to pay to enter. Additional layers of monetization can be added through YouTube channels, in-game purchases, and sponsorships.
By encouraging kids to think like game designers or programmers, rather than just players, parents can get them started on the monetization path with Minecraft.
From Consumption to Creation: Redefining Screen Time
This is a favorite motto of ours at iD Tech; too often, video games like Minecraft are perceived as “consumption only,” which naturally is concerning for parents.
However, with the right coaching and tools, that consumption can easily shift to creative, meaningful, and project-based learning. So, if your child loves gaming and you're looking for the best fit for building their STEM skills, this guide to the similarities and differences between Minecraft and Roblox can help!
iD Tech is on a mission to help kids and families make that shift and make sure screen time is done right!