Minecraft For Kids: Is Minecraft Good for Children?
By Neil Franklin | February 13, 2021
Want to know is Minecraft good for your kids?
As a parent of three children aged ten to sixteen, I have watched them grow up attached to various consoles and devices for most of their lives, which is not surprising as we live firmly in a developed and ever-growing digital world.
It’s a world that’s far removed from the one I grew up in and where I have several concerns as to the amount of time children seem to be spending on games and gaming in general.
You don’t need me to tell you about the general concerns of online gaming – the amount of violence, potential addiction, online bullying and security to name just a few.
But let me take a positive view on the subject for this article…and with two boys who love Minecraft, I decided to take a deeper look at the game and found some interesting benefits.
I liked the fact that my children could “play” in a 3-D infinite world and at the same time, develop some skills that they could potentially transfer into real-life.
I liked that they could play in a collaborative world and learn how to share and exchange resources and also that there was a dose of reality attached to the game – you can easily perish through starvation and being attacked by hostiles!
I will cover more later…
Peter Gray Ph.D., talks about the benefits of online gaming in his article in his Psychology Today, article titled, “Benefits of Play Revealed in Research on Video Gaming” and he describes the cognitive, creative, motivational, emotional and social benefits…it’s a good read and gives a perspective of the other side of the gaming coin, which I do feel is sometimes lost and not addressed.
I’m not going to go into details about playing the game… there is enough information out there to cover the subject and instead, I am going to talk about the game from my own perspective of watching my two boys playing it, talking incessantly about it and even making tutorial videos to help others concerning it!
Let me tell you right now, that I believe that, on the whole, the game has been good for my children and not just because we have been through a series of lockdowns, cur to this pandemic, but from the day they started playing the game many years before.
But it is no secret that the lockdown periods have seen a dramatic increase in online activity, with gaming rising in popularity and I’ve tried to keep a balance in their lives during these periods as I am sure many parents have, which means keeping an eye on the amount of time they spend on gaming.
Gaming is not my pastime of choice – although fifteen or so years ago I had a period of playing an online wargame, which only served to take up time and I suppose it did speed up my reaction times…but for what?
I believe however, Minecraft offers a host of benefits as I will talk about later and it is one of the games, I do not worry about my children playing unattended.
Lockdown – Minecraft madness!
I’ve become far more aware of the games my children are playing during lockdown, as of course, you would expect.
Before these unprecedented times, my kids were immersed in soccer and singing (my daughter is training to be a classical singer), and I can tell you that because game time was so limited, I didn’t pay much attention to the games they were playing, other than to know what they were and taking a look at some of the risks and reviews from other parents about those games.
But Minecraft caught my attention – simply because I found out there was an educational version of the game that was available in my son’s school!
So… if it’s good enough for the education system, then it’s good enough for me.
The first question I asked my sons was:
“So, what exactly is Minecraft and what do you do?
And the reply came in the very simple answer of:
“Mining resources and crafting things.”
You cannot fault the innocence of children and their simple, to the point answers, so I decided to quiz them a little further and watch them play.
They have had the game for years, but it came back with a vengeance over the last twelve months and my sons have recently taken up a Minecraft hosting package from SeekaHost, a hosting company owned and operated by digital entrepreneur Fernando Raymond.
Let’s get back to the “mining” and “crafting” parts!
Minecraft: Learning essential life skills for kids
There is no better experience of life than life itself, as we all know, but when you are able to experience a “virtual” and almost limitless life, it can have a profound effect on how you look at life…at least that is what my children tell me.
The game can be played in different modes, such as “survival” and “creative.”
In survival mode, players are thrown into this 3-D infinite world, where the objective is to survive, as I’m sure you can guess.
In this world you have to learn how to build a shelter, to obtain food, to search out the area and find friendly (or not) people who you can exchange goods with – you also need to protect yourself from nature when it can threaten you.
Falling down, drowning, falling into lava or simply running out of food can ruin your day, just as being attacked by “mobs” – passive, neutral or hostile creatures that roam the world can equally challenge your thinking depending on what you encounter.
This is where the game can get violent and some may have an issue with this, but for me, I see it as something kids have always done…in some way or form.
Back in my day, we emulated the epic battles we saw on television or at the movies while dressed up as gladiators or soldiers armed with the latest toy sword or gun.
I don’t think you can eradicate those and what I would personally term, “natural” tendencies from children and the benefit of Minecraft are that they get to play it from the comfort of their favorite gaming chair.
Yes, there are games out there that are way too violent for my liking and I certainly do not allow my children to play some of them, but Minecraft, in my view, provides a balance.
Watching my children play the game and trying to avoid poisonous food for example, is in some ways reassuring, because when we walk outside, I do get asked the questions as to whether certain plants or berries can be eaten, which does show some form of a transfer of reality from the game to the real world and a good deal of basic awareness.
Minecraft to me, encourages creativity and in the words of one of my sons:
“Allows everyone to be what they want to be.”
It’s an open-world game that can encourage a community spirit, where you can share, help and exchange resources with others.
But for me, the more interesting part comes next…
Minecraft for children applications
I took Minecraft much more seriously when I found out it that a particular version had been adopted by schools and by my own sons’ school as I mentioned earlier.
“A game-based learning platform that promotes creativity, collaboration, and problem-solving in an immersive digital environment. Educators in more than 115 countries are using Minecraft: Education Edition across the curriculum!”
This is directly from the education edition of Minecraft.
And who would not want their children to learn such values?
But the learning can go further and deeper:
One of the first thoughts that I had when looking more deeply at the game, was that kids were learning the basic elements of computer-aided design (CAD).
CAD applications are almost endless and being able to get a child interested in something that is powerful and from an early age is no mean feat.
My two boys regularly build houses and other living areas showing a flair for innovation and design that could never have come from my, or their mothers’ genetic makeup!
Is Minecraft multiplayer safe for kids?
I know there have been projects generated in some schools where children have been asked to re-design a part of a neighborhood or city that they don’t like by using the game and this is a great example of learning through fun, while allowing the teacher to remotely monitor activity not just in the design sense, but also in relation to the development of “softer” skills such as collaboration, communication and problem solving.
Some of the key skills that have driven the building of the education platform as I have discussed, plus it teaches reading, writing math and even history!
In the education version, there is also an option to break into coding and learn basic coding techniques.
For me, it is more about the power of exposing children to future, in-demand skills at the earliest of ages – children soak up knowledge like a sponge and Minecraft plays a role in creating an awareness of some of those skills.
I know it’s only a video game, but I love the fact that my youngest son Louis and when playing on his own, talks throughout the game, describing what he is doing and why he is doing it.
Being the third and youngest child, he is the one who is totally comfortable with his own company and will take pride in telling me what he has achieved in Minecraft on his own, after his own running commentary!
You can easily see how the game promotes a sense of self-direction and because there is really no way to “win,” players must decide what they want to accomplish.
Do they want to simply build great stuff…or do they want to collaborate with others and defeat a “boss?”
It really does give a child the sense of controlling their own destiny, which as we know, is not so apparent in real life.
Minecraft for kids: Conclusion
I’m sure that like me, you are becoming increasingly concerned as to the amount of time children are spending online and in particular, playing video games.
With 90% of the population estimated to be online by 2030, this is not going to fizzle out or go away in any shape or form, so what can we do?
I had children relatively late in life (I’m 57 with three children aged ten to sixteen) and this world is a far cry from the one I grew up in, or as my children frequently tell me, the world where dinosaurs existed!
But I’ am no stranger to technology and as an entrepreneur and businessman operating in the technology space for most of my nearly forty years in business – I’ve seen the emergence of the digital world and witnessed first-hand, the growth and adoption of the Internet and associated technologies.
Gaming for me, was restricted to a few old television-based games and the odd console or two, way back in the day, where any education applications were the last thing on my mind.
It was an escape from education.
Today, I see a future of learning on-demand and channeled through the Internet.
There is no escaping this whichever way you care to look at it and I both love and hate the way that my children can use Siri or Alexa to find the answers to any question because it takes away the “legwork” and hard-effort I had to put in to do the same; but I love the efficiency.
But who am I to question technological development and I find myself arguing with people who take a stance against technology by simply asking them to sacrifice their high-performance Mercedes for a good old-fashioned horse.
Or to go and cut their lawn with a hand shears!
There is a vast difference between an online video game that teaches you how to kill people with the latest weaponry and where that is the sole focus of the game…and where you can start to do something far more purposeful and learn about mining and crafting things with the primary aim of survival.
When you add other components such as math, geometry, design, engineering and others, you start to blend the components of learning and fun.
Plus, the development of “soft” skills such as collaboration, communication and basic level leadership – it’s fairly easy to see why education establishments across the globe have adopted a version of the game.
I don’t know about you, but I always paid far more attention to teachers who taught me as well as making the overall experience fun.
It is for this overall reason that I support my kids playing Minecraft and whatever the future holds for the game, there is a lot to be gained from what I have learned to date.
To your children’s Minecraft and learning success!