“My concern with Minecraft is that it isolates my child from the family and minimizes his communication with others.”
The idea that video games isolate kids from others is usually a misconception. These days, more than 70% of games involve some degree of social activity; playing with others online, watching another child play, or “couch co-op” (playing a game together in the same room). Even when Minecraft is played in a solo fashion—for example, in the creative mode—it often provides children with an opportunity to talk to their peers and family members about what they are doing. What you see as isolation may well just be a form of socialization that is new to you.
Parents can easily make Minecraft into a family activity simply by asking children to talk to them about what they are doing, having them play in the same room, joining them on a server, or watching a Minecraft video together and asking them to comment on it. Once you ask they may never stop talking to you about it, and they will be practicing organizational, planning, and focusing skills as a part of the discussion.
The fact that kids play in front of a screen in the 21st century speaks to broader societal trends. Unlike many of their parents, children today do not always have the same ability to go outside and play in their neighborhoods. This has many causes, including two parents working, concerns regarding safety, over-scheduling of children’s after school activities, and a lack of opportunity for kids to engage in after-school and weekend activities with their peers.
When parents do observe Minecraft isolating their children from others, I encourage a few simple strategies:
- Keep the technology in a central location in the home.
- Ensure that at least part of gameplay time is with another child visiting at the house at the same time (online is fine too).
- Be insistent that the majority of video gameplay is social in nature and that they play with their cousins, friends from school, or kids in the neighborhood.
- Always keep your focus on balancing any video game play with other kinds of play: physical, social, creative, and unstructured. I call this balance a “Play Diet” and I think this is crucial for making video game or digital play beneficial to a child.
- If you are still worried about Minecraft isolating your child, you may need to get involved in playing with them. See our Minecraft Playbook for tips and talking points.
Here is an article I wrote a couple of years ago that still has good information for parents of kids with ADHD. I explain why parents need to concern themselves with issues beyond social isolation and provide a set of clear and realistic strategies for using technology with kids with ADHD.
Featured image: Flickr user Jovial Joystick