The Asheville Citizen Times

Is Minecraft good or bad for kids?

Minecraft is one of the best video games for learning. It’s also one of the most likely to provoke overuse and get kids over-involved. Knowing where to draw the line involves learning what your kids are getting out of it, as well as where their individual limits should be.

Often referred to as a “sandbox” game, Minecraft is a video game that is open, where players can roam freely as they wish, or complete objectives in the game. It’s a digital interactive playground. This is what makes it both great for learning, and captivating. What excites the kids that play it is that they can create virtually anything they want — it’s up to them to develop what it takes to survive the unknown world they’ve chosen.

Players can interact with others in the game, both friends and kids from all over the world. Through collaboration and experimentation, players practice and develop skills such as problem-solving, flexibility, planning, organization, social skills and time management. As a game of survival, Minecraft requires teamwork, strategizing, planning, negotiation, and conflict resolution, which means kids are learning many real-world skills that will benefit their entire lives.

Sheila Dillingham, Asheville mom of three, says her kids get along best when playing Minecraft together. It didn’t start out that way, but her kids learned they must work together to do their best in the game.

Kids have the opportunity to learn math, physics, science, economics and history along the way — the reason so many schools are now using Minecraft as a tool for learning as well.

Customization allows kids to play the way they want, but it also allows parents to control how their kids play it. Parents can set whether or not their kids see monsters, the level of violence (mostly survival related), and with whom they can interact in the game. Bec Oakley, of, a website devoted to “Minecraft Help for Desperate Parents,” points out that these opportunities mean parents can make the game safe for their kids.

“We don’t have to worry about online bullying in Minecraft right now,” explains Dillingham, “because we don’t have it set up for them to interact others outside of our household within the game. I feel that can be dangerous.”

It seems that online bullying is less frequent in Minecraft too — perhaps the collaboration required to succeed in the game prevents a good deal of it.

Dr. Randy Kulman, co-founder of the LearningWorks for Kids website, suggests that parents follow their intuition when it comes to setting limits for digital games that offer benefits, like Minecraft. Kulman recommends the game for players ages 6 and older. He advises to allow this type of digital play, but play Minecraft with your children or watch your children play to monitor their online activity.

“I really enjoy watching the kids play Minecraft and seeing what they create,” says Dillingham. “I prefer to hang out in their imaginations and see what they come up with rather than try the game myself. They create pretty amazing stuff!”

Make sure kids are also getting plenty of physical activity, in-person social interaction, and unstructured play — Minecraft, and gaming in general, should never take the the place of those activities.

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