Minecraft: The video game kids should waste time on this summer
Minecraft is a digital 'sandbox' game – a video game designed to allow users an infinite ways to interact with the game world.
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Safety can also be a creative effort in game worlds. It can take some strategy, risk assessment and collaborative problem-solving, and maintaining it can develop resilience and social literacy.Skip to next paragraph
Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org and co-director of ConnectSafely.org, a Web-based interactive forum and information site for teens, parents, educators, and everybody interested in the impact of the social Web on youth and vice versa. She lives in Northern California and has two sons.
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And parents, I think you’ll love this: To Minecraft players themselves, “safe” means many things and suggests a lot about the creativity I’m talking about. Here are just a few examples:
- How to monster-proof one’s house
- How to safely light one’s building made of ice or snow
- How to build a fireplace in a wooden house so it doesn’t burn down
- How not to step in lava and how to build with it so that it doesn’t burn down your building overnight
- How to move or pick up TNT
- How to keep one’s wolf safe at night.
Minecraft at its most kid-friendly
There are definitely kid-safe public and semi-public Minecraft servers (called “whitelisted” servers because would-be players have to apply to join). One I know well is the Australia-based Massively @ Jokaydia. With 500 registered users worldwide, it’s run by educators who call it a Minecraft Guild for parents as well as kids (aged 4-16). Parents are welcome to participate, and everybody learns. See the citizenship and social- and media-literacy skills represented in this list of 10 kinds of learning that this server aims to help players develop in Minecraft). But this is informal learning for parents and young people (“no teaching or lessons allowed in the game”). It’s also free (donations “gratefully accepted”), but there’s an application that people fill out to join.
There are certainly other kid-safe Minecraft servers out there. [Mojang doesn't endorse any single "safe" Minecraft server.] The servers come and go (it can be time-consuming to run a successful server for more than a few players), so do google “safe minecraft servers” to see what strikes you. When I did, I got about 1.7 million search results, but it looked like there were some good options right on the first results page.
Make a donation, get particle effects
If you google and click on some of them, you’ll probably learn a lot about Minecraft safety just from their descriptions of how they’re set up for play. Many are supported by donations. One example is SandlotMinecraft.com, which offers “perks” for donations (smart!), so don’t be surprised if Minecraft players at your house tell you, for example, that you really need to make a donation because they REALLY need “particle effects” such as “smoke, fire, hearts, ender dust, and TNT.” I mean, really, you’ll need them too when you’re in the game yourself!
So to sum up, the only two safety issues I can think of which parents may want to think about are 1) the age-old need for balance in our lives (because there are so many absorbing ways to have fun in the Minecraft sandbox and/or player vs. player game) and 2) the multiplayer experience (as with any multiplayer online game or online community like Xbox Live). Multiplayer – whether online, on phones, or on Xbox Live – means you don’t always know the people you’re playing with. Most kids are smart about that, but some need reminders not to share personal information with people they don’t know. But it can also be helpful to keep in mind that kids learn a lot from figuring out among themselves how to resolve arguments and get themselves out of fixes, and digital spaces like a Minecraft game are pretty safe environments in which to do that all-important learning and inner-guidance-system development that keep them safe the rest of their lives.