Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Minecraft
What is Minecraft?
Minecraft is not like most other computer games as it does not have strict rules, goals, or even an endpoint. It provides a world to explore and tools to build things within it but it mostly leaves the challenge and purpose of the game up to the player to decide.
Players can build and create complex structures in a peaceful game world with no other purpose than to enjoy the planning and problem solving of creation. Alternatively, the dangers of the world can be activated and players can employ their skills in a battle for survival as they craft their way to solutions to keep their character safe.
This Minecraft app review will consider the educational and entertainment aspects of the Minecraft game alongside the question: is Minecraft safe for kids?
How do you play Minecraft?
Minecraft players set their own goals, explore the game world, and build things within it. The building comes from finding materials (mining) and creating (crafting) useful elements and items within the game.
The creation of simple items allows new materials to be obtained and these can be combined into more complex items or structures. There are achievements to unlock in the game that reward such things as making basic items through to carrying out complex processes.
Players can attempt to do all of this while staying safe from hostile mobs in the game or they can fully turn off the danger and concentrate on the rest of the game.
What are Minecraft’s different modes?
Players choose within which mode they want to play Minecraft.
Creative Mode is for players who just want to build and experiment within the game. Those playing in this mode have a lot of freedom in the game world. There are no challenges other than the ones that players set for themselves. It is in this mode that players have created some wonderfully complex and impressive structures and even machines.
Survival Mode makes it harder for players to get hold of resources to build things in the game. They also face dangerous enemies and have to maintain their character’s health. This mode is still creative and a challenge to player’s resourcefulness but it is closer to a more typical computer game than is Creative Mode.
Adventure Mode has the threats and challenges of Survival Mode but the player’s adventure takes place in a world created by another player.
As well as the modes there are also difficulty levels that can be set in Minecraft. These include peaceful, easy, normal, and hard.
Peaceful removes nearly all peril from the game leaving players to concentrate only on the task at hand. In Creative Mode this leaves players free to just experiment and explore.
The other modes add different levels of peril and danger in the game. Players can still set their own goals but they must negotiate the threats of the Minecraft world including enemies and the need to find food.
Is Minecraft safe?
It is important to distinguish between Minecraft as a single-player game and as a multiplayer game.
As a single-player game, Minecraft is perfectly safe for kids. This, of course, assumes that parents have taken the appropriate measures to ensure kids can’t access multiplayer games surreptitiously. If you do not like violence in computer games, the peaceful difficulty level ensures the game does not include any.
Multiplayer adds a social element that makes the answer to the question of is Minecraft safe for kids? more complex. It is possible for players to ensure that they play alongside people they know but not as easy to set up as other multiplayer modes. For some children, this can still create stressful situations as bullying to participate and bullying during the game can make their home and free time feel less safe for kids.
The most typical multiplayer version of the Minecraft game that kids want to play, though, will be on public servers. As well as bullying or other friendship issues, the unknowable motives of strangers come into play in these online games.
Many of the meeting places for these games (known as servers – see later in this Minecraft app review) are well moderated but others may well contain behaviour and content not suitable for children. You will need to research which ones are reputable, meet your child’s needs, interests and age. You must then make sure your child only accesses servers which you have approved.
There are no guarantees, though, of children only finding good and genuine behaviour in any online game or server. How safe this experience will be for your child will depend on how you set up the device and Minecraft game and also how well your child understands how to stay safe online.
Be aware that there are many apps on the various stores that adopt a very similar look to Minecraft. Do ensure that you are buying the correct Minecraft app both to protect your money and to avoid inappropriate or unapproved content.
What is the right age to start playing Minecraft?
The PEGI rating for Minecraft is 7+ and ESRB rating is 10. These relate to the single-player game as multiplayer games involve interactions with users who might not be known to the player and could change the experience considerably and unpredictably – as can third-party content. Check out our full list of games like Minecraft.
The actual mechanics and methods of the game should be playable and understandable by children aged around 7 or 8.
Is Minecraft free to play?
Minecraft is not free although you can play a few sessions as part of a trial. The Minecraft app has to be paid for on all devices. Any places where you see the Minecraft game being available for free is either a scam or piracy and could introduce additional risks to children.
After paying the initial purchase price, players might also want to buy extra expansions to the game but they aren’t essential to play the Minecraft game. Kids can sometimes feel peer pressure to upgrade their appearance in the game.
Is Minecraft violent?
On single-player, kids’ Minecraft games can be tuned to offer the experience that you are comfortable with them playing. For a purely stress-free and creative experience, kids can play Creative Mode on the peaceful difficulty level.
Turning up the difficulty increases the challenge and stress of the game and it has a level of combativeness introduced. This remains simplistic and cartoon-like in how it is shown on screen. Minecraft is famous for its blocky look.
When other players are involved, Minecraft can become more confrontational. As well as the game-controlled enemies, human players can try to make life difficult for other players. This may well be in the spirit of that particular game as some players enjoy the competitiveness possible in Minecraft.
Can you do cross-platform play on Minecraft?
Minecraft has been released on many different consoles and devices and the players on each can interact and communicate with each other.
Can you chat with strangers in Minecraft?
The chat option is on by default in Minecraft and will allow chatting with strangers if the player connects to a multiplayer game.
There are ways in which players who know each other can connect without any strangers being able to join in, but the complexity of doing this depends on which device you are using and whether you are prepared to pay for additional services to make it easier. See the official Minecraft documentation for your device.
What is a Minecraft mod?
For some people, the creativity that Minecraft allows extends beyond that which is built into it. These people produce ways of modifying the game, called mods. A huge number of these exist with some having become very popular.
Unfortunately, not all are safe. Microsoft, the owner of Mojang, Minecraft’s developer, makes mods that can be trusted to be what they say they are and free of viruses. Third-party mods require some caution as, while many do exactly, as they say, others may not be so innocent. Care should be taken before downloading and activating third-party mods.
Minecraft iOS and Android also have access to mods through the use of 3rd-party apps. As with computer versions, unofficial mods could make the Minecraft game unsuitable for children and carry other risks.
Console players can also expand their Minecraft games for kids through the console stores. These are official and easy to install. The downside is that they must be paid for.
What is a Minecraft server?
While playing alone can still be a lot of fun, it is not usually how kids want to play this game. They often want to join a world populated by real people and play, craft, and chat with them in the game. Servers enable multiplayer experiences and with this comes communication. Players can chat through the on-screen textbox of the game.
Servers are how multiplayer worlds are created. Minecraft servers have names. Players can find them by these names or be invited to join them. Reputable and well-intentioned servers monitor their players’ behaviour to ensure that they match with the aims of the server’s owner.
Some Minecraft servers have been created to be child friendly, to be suitable for players with special needs, or to provide a certain type of challenge. Communities have grown around these servers and they can form a large part of the social experience of playing Minecraft.
As with mods, however, caution must be taken. Some servers are most definitely not for children or are not moderated at all. The behaviour, chat, and content of these servers means that parents must oversee how children use Minecraft to make sure that these servers are avoided.
Can my kid play with friends on Minecraft?
Yes. Playing games of Minecraft with their friends is often the motivation behind children taking an interest in Minecraft. How easy this it is to do depends on the device they are using. Consoles tend to have simpler methods of finding and connecting with people.
Do remember, though, that while kids can find their friends to play alongside in the Minecraft game, other players in the same game will often be complete strangers.
Are there predators on Minecraft?
Parents have to be cautious of predators on all online platforms which their children wish to use.
Reputable Minecraft servers will have moderators to enforce the rules and provide some level of monitoring of players behaviour but parents cannot expect this to be perfect. As well-intentioned and organised as a server’s moderators might be, they cannot cover everything.
Minecraft provides tools to block other players but this is a tool that is only ever of use once unpleasant behaviour has already taken place.
Parents who allow their children to take part in any online game or platform need to be sure that they have set up the software to be as safe as possible. Minecraft is available on many different platforms and each sets up parental controls differently. On some consoles, you can set up parental restrictions that influence all games on the console but you may still have to tweak further options in the game itself.
Be sure to check the official documentation to make sure you do this correctly for your platform. As features can be added and changed over time, you should check back occasionally. Make sure that you lock the settings using a PIN or password.
Parents must also ensure that their children know how to deal appropriately with predatory or unwanted behaviour. They must know not to reveal any personal details and that people on the other end of a chat are not always who they say they are. If anything feels wrong or unsafe they should know to come to you. They must never arrange real-world contact within an online chat.
Is Minecraft educational?
It is easy to see how Minecraft is preferable to a violent shooting game for children. Minecraft games for kids are definitely more creative and thought-provoking than pure action games.
How educational Minecraft is will depend to some extent on how your child approaches it. Planning and problem-solving will feature in any game of Minecraft. Communication and collaboration will come into play in Minecraft multiplayer games.
Schools have used Minecraft for good educational experiences that are well planned and led by teachers but it is unlikely children will have the same learning experience if left to their own devices. Minecraft Education Edition has been produced for schools and is supported by copious resources.
Could my kid get addicted to Minecraft?
Scientific research on whether any games can be truly addictive is not conclusive. However, children can become very attached to playing some games and will do so at the expense of previously enjoyed activities.
Modern computer games are designed to keep players engaged and they are easy forms of entertainment. Minecraft, like many other games, can come to take up a larger proportion of kids’ time than is healthy.
Parents should keep an eye on their children’s screen time and how it is used. The Minecraft experience is certainly more thoughtful than a fast-paced shooter and so you might find it a preferable activity to these. However, if Minecraft is eating into physical-exercise time or is starting to replace all other activities, parents should intervene. Software that records screen time and can limit it is available for most devices and can be useful to ensure that children don’t overdo computer games.
Overall rating of Minecraft
Minecraft is definitely entertaining. Its millions of fans that both play the game and follow it on other sites such as forums and youTube are a testament to that. The creativity possible within it could lead children towards later creative pursuits
It is safe to say that Minecraft’s free-form method of play is more educational, or at least more thought-provoking than most games. Minecraft can be truly educational and a powerful tool for inspiring kids but this is most likely to happen when the players have additional guidance from teachers and parents.
Minecraft is not alone in having potential safety issues for kids and if you want your child to use it you must do what you can to ensure the game is set up correctly for children and your child understands online safety. Purely based on entertainment value, this would be a 5-star app, but educationally, and for this Minecraft app review it is a 4-star app.