Getting to grips with Minecraft
There's no right or wrong way to manage your children's time on Minecraft, but it's important to get involved. We talked to two parents about their experiences.
Karen is a stay at home mum from Scotland. Her children, Thomas, 12, Sam, 8, and Isobel, 5, played so much that Karen and her partner joined in. Now the family even has its own Minecraft group, called a server.
Bee is a photographer and design student living in the West Midlands. When her boys, Julian, 6, and Oliver, 5, started playing Minecraft, she was worried about the risk of them encountering strangers online, so she doesn’t let them play with anyone else.
- Read Karen's experience with Minecraft
"Minecraft is fantastic. It teaches problem solving and creativity," says Karen. "We want the kids to enjoy the game but we also want them to get out and about – as well as do their homework. So we limit the time they're allowed to play."
There's no risk of coming into contact with strangers on the family's private server. But as Thomas has got older, he's been wanting to play on public servers. Karen can't control how other players behave on these, but she has found a moderated, family friendly server she's happy with. She's also talked to him about not giving out personal details, and what to do if someone upsets him online.
Being a bit of a techie, Karen's well aware of the risks that come from downloading unofficial mods for the game. "We've got decent security software on our computers, which prevents the kids from installing any mod that might contain malware."
- Read Bee's experience with Minecraft
"I only let them play in single-player mode so they can't meet strangers, and I don't let them connect to the internet. They'd have to be much, much older for me to feel comfortable with that. Definitely not any time soon."
Right now, I wouldn't feel right letting the boys play on a public server – even a family friendly one. I don't have time to monitor it. I prefer knowing they can't interact with anyone else. That way, I can just leave them to it without having to worry.
While this locked-down approach means that cyberbullying isn't an issue for Bee's boys, she realises she'll need to get more involved as her boys get older and want more freedom.
"I just don't know enough about the game. If they really want to play with other people, I'd have to find out more and maybe set up controls. For now, I'd rather not let them connect to the internet at all."
Security is another issue Bee admits she'll need to tackle before her boys can play Minecraft safely online.
"I'm terrible with technology so I've never actually thought about the risk of viruses."
- Keeping up with your kids' Minecraft gameplay
Depending on the age of your kids, you should take a different approach to how they play Minecraft.
- Age 4 and under
It's not unheard for kids to play Minecraft at this age – especially if they have older siblings. If your child wants to give it a try, make sure you play it with them.
Use the single-player option to stop anyone else from joining the game and choose Creative mode, which makes it impossible for your child's character to die.
- Age 5-7
Minecraft will be part of playground chat, and children of this age will want to give it a go.
Playing in Creative mode lets your child explore the game freely, without fear of getting hurt. They can get used to the game before moving on to a more advanced mode like Adventure. You can adjust the difficulty within each mode – Peaceful is the easiest.
- Age 8-11
If you have a child of this age, they probably talk about nothing else. They may even have played Minecraft in the classroom and want to continue at home. If they're keen to go on to the multiplayer option, search online for a child-friendly server. If you're concerned about your child talking to strangers, turn off chat.
- Age 12-15
As children reach their teens, they may venture into some darker areas of the gaming world and potentially meet new characters that can introduce them to activities you might not approve of. For example, it's possible to download illegal mods that allow Minecraft characters to have sex, or to show realistic pain.
Chat to them about what they've been doing in the game and who they've been talking to – just as you would in real life.
- Age 16+
This age group will take their game playing pretty seriously. They might have built up a reputation within the Minecraft communities and attracted an online following who they share hints and tips with.
If they're dabbling in vlogging (video blogging), encourage them to set a good example when it comes to playing safe, respecting other players and staying secure online. They may have a huge influence both on online viewers and younger siblings.