What do you do when a child feels that the players on Minecraft are their closest and only friends? It seems to be their only world of social behavior and interaction. They cannot interact in positive ways with peers in school. My child’s life revolves around Minecraft.
One of the concerns that many parents have about their child’s overzealous focus on Minecraft is that it minimizes their interests in other activities. A child’s fascination with Minecraft can also have an impact upon friendships, because the game may be the only thing they want to talk about. Fortunately, because Minecraft is so incredibly popular, your child is likely to have many friends to choose from who are involved in this relatively wholesome activity.
For the most part, I suggest not worrying too much about your child finding more in common with friends online and wanting to play Minecraft with them. It may very well be that Minecraft is not the cause of their social isolation at school and is actually a solution. And though it may be that a child’s life revolves around Minecraft now, this is likely to change over the next few years.
Many well-adjusted kids get consumed by an interest in which they develop an expertise. Whether it be skateboarding, dinosaurs, fishing, Justin Bieber, or collecting cards, an intense interest has many positive features. Kids with these interests do research, become emotionally and cognitively engaged, recognize what it takes to become an expert, and display some persistence in pursuing their passion. The vast majority of these kids switch to something different within a few years. I have observed many children in my practice who have transitioned from Minecraft into other sandbox games such as Terraria, Roblox, and Clash of Clans or into Minecraft-related activities such as learning to code and creating their own videos. If the majority of their Minecraft play involves other kids, I am generally not concerned.
If your child does indeed struggle to interact in positive ways with other kids simply because they do not play Minecraft, this is a social-skills issue and not so much a fault with the game itself. Think about the kids on the high school football team who congregate with each other and exclude others who are not part of the team. You might even see this in school bands, after-school theater groups, or kids in advanced placement classes. While it is natural to hang out with others who share our interests, it is not natural to be critical or exclude others because they do not play a particular game or share an interest.
That being said, interaction with others is what makes Internet gaming such a valuable tool for building self-awareness and social skills. Allowing your child to continue playing Minecraft with these online friends (who, while having Minecraft in common, are undoubtedly a diverse group) will allow him to grow as a person and a member of a community.
Here are a few strategies to mitigate these concerns and ensure that your child engages with kids and activities beyond Minecraft:
- Enroll your child in after-school classes or activities. Joining the swim team, Scouts, choir, or band or taking a computer coding class will expand your child’s areas of interest.
- Be willing to chauffeur your child to activities. Sometimes it takes extra effort to disengage a child from Minecraft and other video games. Committing to take him to the movies, skating rink, or a local park may help him to engage in other activities with peers.
- Rethink family time. Find a family activity that everyone enjoys that isn’t Minecraft. Become a ski family, a hiking family, a movie-watching family, or a fishing family. Find an activity that the whole family can do and do it on a regular basis. Try to make the family activity into a passion that encourages your child to spend time planning what you might do, reading about new places to go, or learning about the equipment you will need.
- Learn about Minecraft. The best way to understand and reach our children who have specific interests, including video games, is to learn about them. Playing and talking about video games with your child is invaluable. Let him teach you about the game, tell you about what he likes to do in the game environment, who his Minecraft friends are, and what his strategies are. Our Minecraft Playbook can give you more insight into why the game is so engaging and absorbing for kids, the kinds of thinking skills the game exercises, and how to play with and talk to your child about the game.
If you still don’t understand why the game is so important to your child, take a look at Why Is Minecraft So Appealing to Kids With ADHD?, 7 Reasons Kids With Autism Love Minecraft, and What’s So Great About Minecraft?
Featured image: Flickr user Kelly