Minecraft is one of the most popular games for children. But is it safe to play? You’ve heard about problems with other games, security and privacy concerns, child safeguarding issues… but what about Minecraft?
Is Minecraft safe for kids? What should parents know about Minecraft and its suggested age rating? Read on to find the answers.
Does Minecraft Have an Age Rating?
It doesn’t matter what game you child is playing, you should know about the age rating. When it comes to Minecraft, it’s easy to be lulled into a false sense of security. After all, it’s just a sandbox game featuring mineable building blocks. So, do age ratings really matter?
Well, yes they do.
In North America, the rating is agreed on by the ESRB, while in Europe, PEGI determines the rating. Ratings are decided upon based on the suitability of a game for an audience. They’re the video game equivalent of movie ratings.
The ESRB has declared Minecraft’s age rating should be 10+. Meanwhile, in the PEGI area of Europe (including the European Union, United Kingdom, and non-EU countries to the east), Minecraft is rated 7.
Is Minecraft Safe for Kids? What You Need to Know
These judgments are clearly based on the mechanics of the game as well as the content. While it is important to follow ESRB and PEGI guidelines, the decision is ultimately yours.
If you feel your child can handle Minecraft, then it should be suitable for them to play. And you can always play along with them if you want to (more on that below).
So, Minecraft is aimed at kids and is suitable for children aged around 10 years old. But is Minecraft safe for kids?
Minecraft has several game modes. These let you switch between the single player mode, local multiplayer, and remote multiplayer. It is the final option that can cause child safeguarding problems.
What Parents Need to Know About Minecraft Online
Two play options are available in Minecraft (in addition to Survival, Creative, and Adventure modes). The default is single player, in which a world is generated on the device you’re playing on. This can then be explored, mined, and items built and crafted.
However, two multiplayer modes are also available. These can either be hosted on your child’s device, or a remote public server. Local multiplayer is usually hosted on a single device, with other users running Minecraft able to connect. This is relatively safe, as everyone playing is on the same network, and probably in the same building.
Playing Minecraft on a public server, however, is a different matter. This is where things can become challenging from a safety point of view.
Cyberbullies and people who pose a risk to children can use game time on a public server to target children. There should, therefore, be a serious conversation between parents as to whether a remote public server is a safe gaming environment. If Minecraft can be as much fun with local gameplay, then accessing a public server is pointless.
Minecraft Risks: Bullying, Grooming, and Malware
It might offer a great gaming environment, but things can be unpleasant in Minecraft. It only takes you (or your child) a moment to select the wrong server, and suddenly, a world of bullying, malware, and worse can appear.
Bullying in Minecraft
As with any online gaming environment, Minecraft has a bullying issue. If you’re letting your kids play Minecraft online, take the time to check out a server beforehand. Some are great environments for play, while others tend to be dominated by cliques. The result of this can be targeted bullying and unsociable behavior, with some kids lured and manipulated into death scenarios.
Meanwhile, some Minecraft YouTube videos concern bullying and other unsuitable and unfair Minecraft behavior, so these should be avoided too.
Grooming and Inappropriate Contact in Minecraft
Several cases have been highlighted over the years of children being targeted by adults while playing Minecraft online. This typically uses the messaging service provided by Microsoft which can be managed and disabled using Xbox Live’s parental settings.
If you’re prepared to let your children play online on Minecraft, at least take the time to disable messaging. Do this in the app via Settings > Profile > Manage who can send you invites. This will take you to the Xbox Live privacy and online safety screen. Find the Others can communicate with voice, text or invites option and set to Block. You might consider Friends an acceptable option.
For the best results here, you should set up a child account.
Malware in Minecraft
Kids love skinning Minecraft, but this can be an avenue for malware to spread onto your computer. Malware can be disguised as skins, maps, and mods on third party websites, resulting in a data security nightmare.
This typically affects Windows users, although there is a strong chance that Android devices might also be infected.
The answer is to ensure that only official skin mods and other add-ons and enhancements are downloaded for Minecraft.
Minecraft Offline Gaming Is Safer for Kids
In its basic single player mode, playing the game locally is safe, no more taxing than using Lego. There is no risk, mentally, or physically, from playing Minecraft in this way.
Really, this should be the default option for children, at least until they have got to grips with the controls. There is no need to be concerned over the presence of others in your child’s world in single player mode. It exists purely on the tablet, phone, console, or computer, with no option for online multiplayer.
Note that local multiplayer is available on consoles. Xbox One and PlayStation 4 have two player mode options for Minecraft, allowing your child and one other to play in split screen mode. This multiplayer option is far safer than online multiplayer modes.
Playing Minecraft With Your Kids
Although Minecraft is aimed at children, it is a fun experience for all ages. As such, you might consider spending some time playing it when your kids are at school. This will give you the chance to get to grips with the game. What next? Well, why not play along with your kids?
Better still, you can set up local multiplayer on difference devices. Rather than the split screen multiplayer of a console, use a mobile device to host a game. You can even set up your own Minecraft server on a Raspberry Pi, an inexpensive hobbyist computer.
However you do it, hosting your own Minecraft server lets you set the rules, control who accesses the game, and generally stay in control
Make Minecraft Safe for Your Kids
Undoubtedly there needs to be better controls over how Minecraft servers are managed. But you’ll find the game has enough controls to help you manage any issues. But it’s not worth banning Minecraft. The game has huge potential for education, not least with the Minecraft Hour of Code.
For a safe Minecraft experience, take advantage of single player and local multiplayer gaming and eschew remotely hosted games.
Want to know more about your kids are playing? Check what every parent should know about videogames.