If you are a parent of children who are older than 5, the chances are that you're familiar with Mojang's most popular online game "Minecraft." But, is Minecraft bad for kids or is it a good choice for kids? It depends on the individual.
You have probably dropped a few buzzwords like "Steve," "Creepers," "Baby Zombie Pigman" in an effort to pretend you have been listening when your young "Minecraft" fan prattled on about a mod or whatever-it's-called. You might have savored an enthralling green and brown cupcake at a birthday party and recognized the theme at work.
You have most likely asked to your child to stop playing the game. Perhapsthey asked for it. Then, possibly, you hid the "Minecraft"-supplying device after all kinds of ultimatums (yours) and loud protestations (your kids') and went to bed that night still cursing the "Minecraft" name under your breath.
If you've managed to escape all this... please share your secrets.
What exactly is "Minecraft?"
"Minecraft" is a game for one or more players that gives children the chance to create their own worlds complete with houses and pets and resources and even enemies that might sneak into their homes at night and strike.
With the game to 176 million people around the world as of May 2019 and counting and with 200 million registered users, it's not hard to say "Minecraft" is a huge success - and for some, seemingly addictive.
Is "Minecraft" not suitable for children?
Is it giving them the keys to an empire that could transform into "Lord of the Flies" in the wrong hands?
"Minecraft is online Legos," parenting and expert in child development Dr. Deborah Gilboa told TODAY Parents. "Could a kid go rogue on 'Minecraft,' create something inappropriate, or focus on destruction and gore? It is possible.
"But it's not the goal or the focus of the game," she said, "and most 'Minecraft' obsessions make kids more creative, improve their working memory and cognitive flexibility and allow them to feel great about their abilities as a nerd."
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The game itself isn't all bad. NBC News even used it once to explain who is the owner of the moon. But what do you think about all that screen time?
Conscientious parents, take heart that a 2017 study published in the journal Child Development by researchers from the Oxford Internet Institute and Cardiff University found that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) guidelines for controlling screen time for children might be a bit alarmist or even incorrect.
'Minecraft' sells 5 million copies on Xbox Live
The AAP recommends that young children limit screen time to a maximum of 1-2 hours per day. However, an Oxford study found that children who use screens in a moderate way over the AAP's guidelines could be more prosperous.
"Our findings suggest that the wider family context, including how parents establish rules for digital screens, and whether they are actively exploring the digital world with their children, is more important than the screen time," Dr. Andrew Pryzbylski the lead author of the paper at the Oxford Internet Institute, wrote in the paper. "Future research should be focused on how the use of digital devices by parents or care-givers and turning it into an enjoyable time for the whole family can affect children's psychological well-being as well as their curiosity and bonds with the caregiver involved.'"
While the results may be encouraging, they don't solve the exhausting problem of teaching children to manage their lives in their virtual worlds with the realities in their real worlds. Perhaps if we put them in schools that they could attend in their "Minecraft" mods and our children would show more enthusiasm for math-related homework?