How to Manage Minecraft These Holidays (Without Tears and Tantrums)
Love it or loathe it, many kids today are mesmerised by Minecraft. And many of their parents are completely bamboozled about exactly what’s so enticing about a digital block world.
A lot it seems.
Minecraft can be a wonderful tool for children to play and learn. And yes, rest assured, children can learn a wealth of skills playing Minecraft. It’s not just idle time. But Minecraft can also be highly “addictive” if it’s not carefully managed.
So what can parents do to ensure Minecraft is managed effectively?
1. Set & Enforce Minecraft Rules
Set (and enforce) rules about how much time your child can spend playing Minecraft. You need to give them specific amounts of time for Minecraft, otherwise it’s the game that doesn’t end (and it really doesn’t end because it has no clear start or finish points in Minecraft, unlike other games). You also need to discuss when, where, how and with whom it will be used.
In an ideal world you’d have this discussion before they start playing Minecraft, even before it’s downloaded (because let’s face it, it’s impossible to have a proper conversation with them once they’re in the “Minecraft entranced state”). But if you haven’t set Minecraft limits it’s not too late to start.
The second and often hardest part of this step is actually enforcing the limits. Yes, you’ll probably experience “techno-tantrums” when you ask them to switch it off, but it’s important that you adhere to your limits, otherwise your child quickly realises that your limits are flexible and open for negotiation.
In my Managing Minecraft Masterclass: A Parents’ Essential Workshop for Worried Parents I’ve created a PDF download- Minecraft Management Plan that you can personalise and print for your family. This helps you to create your own family Minecraft rules. You can specify when your child can use Minecraft (nominate tech-free days or times of the day), the duration of their playing episodes, on what devices they can use Minecraft, where they can play Minecraft and with whom they can play it. It’s a contract that’s all spelled out so there are no ambiguities. The rules are specified in black and white.
2. Help Them to Find Cues to Transition Away From Minecraft
Simply demanding that your child switches off Minecraft at a specific time, or after an elapsed period of time is sometimes ineffective. And it often results in tears and tantrums.
Why? Children are often so engrossed with what they’re doing in Minecraft and they may be in the middle of an important task. You see, in Minecraft, there’s no definitive end point in the game. There’s no level that they can reach and feel like they’re accomplished their goals. So children need help and cues to transition away from Minecraft.
Some effective ways to do this, is to give them ample warning that they’ll soon need to finish playing Minecraft, so that they can make the necessary arrangements to finish (perhaps it’s letting their friends know that they’ll soon be leaving if they’re playing in multi-player mode, or perhaps they simply need to finish crafting an important tool that they’re working on). Warnings help to prime them for what activity is coming next. Generally, I recommend at least two warnings before it’s time to switch off.
Help them to identify parts of Minecraft where it’s easier to leave. Identify distinguishable parts of Minecraft that signal changes in the game.
For example, when Minecraft transitions from day to night it is often a great way to signal that it’s an appropriate time to leave.
Alternatively, your child may need to finish making a recipe on the crafting table before they exit Minecraft. Encourage your child to articulate exactly what they’re trying to accomplish before they exit the game, so you’re aware of how much time they’ll need. If they feel like they have some control over switching it off, they’re more likely to do this, without the tears.
3. Have a Succession Plan
Make sure your child is aware about what they will do when Minecraft is switched off. It gives them something tangible to re-direct their attention to once Minecraft is finished (and means they’re less likely to get upset about stoping Minecraft). They need to know what’s next on the agenda. And it really helps if it’s something they’re looking forward to doing (and logging off Minecraft to go and do homework is definitely not appealing. Hence, why I always recommend homework’s done before Minecraft).
Another idea is a “Bored Board” of activities. This can be a menu of off-screen, non-Minecraft activities that help children to transition to another activity. It provides children with a locus of control over what they do next (this is in fact why they also love Minecraft so much, because they’re pretty much “free” to roam and explore their digital world and kids love this freedom and choice).
I’d love to know in the comments below, what strategies you’ve successfully implemented to help your child manage their Minecraft time.