Have you noticed that your child is playing less Minecraft and watching more Minecraft videos?
A recent post by Jordan Shapiro in Forbes describes his discomfort with the time his own kids spend watching rather than playing. This is a very common phenomena in today’s video game world (the TV show South Park even devoted an entire episode to it). Kids are spending lots of time on YouTube and watching “Let’s Play” videos, recorded playthroughs with commentary (See PewDiePie), or tuning into Twitch where they can watch live streaming video game play by master (or less talented) players.
I’ve noticed this trend amongst the kids who visit me in my clinical practice. On a daily basis, kids tell me about watching Let’s Play videos — particularly on Minecraft — more often than they are playing the actual games. When I ask kids about this phenomena, they report that they want to learn skills and see what these experts are doing in the video games. They also seem to like the funny commentary and banter of many of the leading online video game players.
From a psychological perspective, one of the features that makes video games a useful tool for cognitive growth is the fact that the interactive and adaptive nature of the game play requires reflective thinking and responsiveness. This contrasts sharply with the passive nature of television and Let’s Play videos. Watching videos about video games may initially be about getting better at the game, but at its essence is a passive activity for the brain. If you see a child using the videos as a tool to increase their knowledge and to challenge themselves in a video game, it does reflect a desire to improve their skills can be positive for them, but I discourage parents and educators from allowing a child to spend a disproportionate amount of their time watching videos.
One other issue to consider about Let’s Plays and video game streaming is the appropriateness of these tools for younger children. Some of the videos that your kids may be watching have offensive language or comments. We encourage parents to carefully monitor this media.
We’ve done a little bit of the homework for you, and while we haven’t watched every minute of every video, for the most part the following video producers are appropriate for children and present opportunities for learning new skills through the game.
iBallisticSquid has a YouTube channel full of fun, funny, and family-friendly Minecraft videos. Squid’s uploads are more entertaining and less instructive, but there is no doubt your child will be informed or at least inspired by the extreme creativity of the videos and the in-game environments and situations they feature.
Paul Soares, Jr. is a popular Minecraft user whose videos are entertaining as well as informative. A husband and father, Soares has taken the trouble to have his YouTube videos rated for family, so rest assured that your children will not be exposed to inappropriate content.
Stampy uploads a new Minecraft video every day, in which he shows off new content in the game or brings viewers along on quests and adventures. His Let’s Plays and tutorials are fun and engaging, and all kid-friendly.
Kids can learn from Minecraft, there’s no denying that. But their brains are more engaged when they are doing rather than watching. The above Minecraft Let’s Play producers are great places to turn when the in-game going gets tough or players want the low-down on new additions to the game. We still recommend that your child only watch a little at a time before they get back to tackling Minecraft on their own.
To read about why Minecraft is such a powerful learning tool, see our articles on Minecraft and other sandbox games and why you should encourage your daughter play Minecraft. You can find our Minecraft Playbook here. If it’s time to switch it up, see our article about finding games like Minecraft.
Feature image: Flickr user Steven Saus