Staverton C.E. Primary School
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Minecraft is often described as a ‘sandbox game’. This means that it’s a virtual land where users can create their own worlds and experiences, using building blocks, resources discovered on the site and their own creativity.
The game is available on multiple platforms. You can play on a computer, smartphone, tablet, X Box or Playstation. It is growing in popularity day by day, especially among primary-aged children.
Since its release in 2009, Minecraft has quickly become one of the most popular games in the world. As an indie game built by a very small team, Minecraft’s success isn’t down to massive resources or a carefully planned advertising strategy. So what explains its popularity with children?
Minecraft has been described as a game with no rules. It doesn’t come with a set of instructions, or a stated objective – players can build and explore however they want. It’s often compared to virtual Lego.
This means that Minecraft fans have a lot of flexibility in terms of how they play. Users can recreate an existing fantasy world or build a new one from scratch, they can fight villains and seek adventure, and they can play alone or with friends. It can also be played at any level. In a lot of popular games, you need a certain amount of skill to move on to the next challenge. This can be frustrating for young kids who don’t always have the abilities or unrestricted time required to make real progress in a game. In Minecraft, children can create their own adventures at any level of play.
Minecraft guidelines say that you need to be 13 to play. This minimum age is down to American privacy legislation, which states that websites collecting information from children must get permission from their parents. Many popular websites set over-13 age limits so that they don't have to comply with this legislation.
If you have a child under the age of 13, you may have decided to allow them to play Minecraft. If this is the case, it is a term and condition of the site which is being broken, not UK law.
Minecraft’s focus on creatively building and exploring could help children build their problem solving, planning and organisation skills. And kids who play with their friends might find it improves their ability to work as a team. Some parents of children with autism have credited the game with improving their children’s social skills and communication abilities – there is even a Minecraft server specifically for young people with autism and ADHD.
Minecraft is catching on in schools as well. Students at Stackpole VC School, for instance, used Minecraft to build an accurate scale model of their school. It’s also been used to teach kids about programming, ICT and maths. And minecraftedu.com exists to provide teachers with a version of the game for use in lessons.
If your child is already playing Minecraft, they are your best teacher. They love teaching their parent something new. Take an interest, sit and play with them. If you have concerns about risks on Minecraft, see our article, Staying safe on Minecraft.
The chances are, if you have primary age children, Minecraft will be part of their world, or their friends' worlds. So what should you know about helping your kids play safely?
Like lots of popular sites, apps and games, Minecraft’s terms and conditions specify that it is for over 13s. This is because of US privacy legislation, which requires parents of under-13s to sign permission before any data about their children can be collected. In the UK, if children under th age of 13 play Minecraft, it is a violation of the site’s terms and conditions but it is not illegal.
Despite the age restriction, which as we have seen is to do with the legal position in America, Minecraft is very popular with primary school children. There’s nothing about the game itself that’s inappropriate for kids – in fact, it’s often been described as a virtual Lego. Users explore landscapes and worlds and build their infrastructure from materials they find on the site.
As with any online activity, there are some safety concerns to keep in mind. If you have a young child who plays Minecraft, you might want to:
Privacy settings are limited in Minecraft, but there are things you can do to control what your child sees and whom they interact with. These are especially important if your child is of a primary age – you may want to be more flexible with older children, depending on their maturity and ability to talk to you if they feel uncomfortable.
Users can either play on their own in single player, which is the safest mode because they can't use the chat function; or with others in multiplayer.
The multiplayer option enables users to play together in a single world. It’s safest to create a private server where only known friends and contacts can join. Some servers have been set up to enable children and families to play together, with strict rules on language and behaviour. A simple online search will give you server options.
On multiplayer, the chat function allows users to participate in discussions. You can open a chat window by pressing the 'T' button and then pressing 'Enter' to display the chat to other users. In the chat function users can also post website links.
Chat features on sites allow children to make friends with people who, in this case, have similar gaming interests. Online, there is no way of verifying who these people might be, so if your child is talking to people online that they have never met in the real world, it is important that they don’t give away any personal information about themselves, or move their conversations into other online areas, especially private ones where conversations could become more personal.
Lots of Minecraft users watch fan-created YouTube videos to improve their skills and learn new techniques. Minecraft videos are by far the most popular gaming content on YouTube, with 3.9 billion views in March 2015 alone.
Minecraft videos are popular with children and plenty of them are age-appropriate. But some of the videos include commentary with profanity or sexual references, and some discuss and encourage bullying. So if your child is planning to watch Minecraft YouTube videos, you may want to have a look at them first.
You can also try searching for ‘profanity free Minecraft servers’. But even then it might be worth checking the videos before young children watch them. Minecraft does not have any particularly graphic content but some of the videos contain monsters, trolls, spiders and zombies, which some children may find scary.
Some popular YouTubers run Minecraft channels that are intended to be family friendly. Minecraft Dad makes videos of himself and his kids playing on their family server, while SuperKevinCraft is run by a teen whose videos show him building and exploring with friends. Stampy’s videos are also popular with children – and he’s creating a new Minecraft-focused YouTube channel featuring educational videos. You can point younger children towards some of these age-appropriate channels.
You can also turn on YouTube’s Safety Mode(link is external) to block age-inappropriate content.
Currently Minecraft does not have a 'report' function so your child should be careful when joining a server. If your child is gaming with a mature age group, they might hear offensive language or rude comments.
With some plugins (add-on software that extends or customises the game), you can report users who break the rules of the server to a moderator who can ban anyone being offensive or disruptive.
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