Are you worried that your child is a ‘Minecraft Kid’? These games seem like a great idea. It’s nothing more than digital Lego? But have you ever tried to take the tablet away or switch off the console because you need to go somewhere or its time for dinner, bed or a bath?
It’s not uncommon to see a temper tantrum, anger or even rage at interfering with their game time?
It’s just a game, you build things.
Kill a few monsters. Explore and be creative, so what harm is it doing?
A fair percentage of parents that I speak to about screen time have an assumption or an indication that too much digital screen time is having a negative effect on their kids.
There are a few articles out there about kids being severely addicted to their screens or apps on their ipads.
But most parents would not see it as a problem so severe that it’s like digital heroin, but they are concerned.
What is clear, is that when the access to the devices is removed, the results seem immediate.
So what’s the right thing to do about your kids game and screen time?
There’s some great research on what’s going on when kids spend long amounts of time playing video games, with digital brain imaging.
Researchers in China, for example, performed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies on the brains of 18 college students who spent an average of 10 hours a day online, primarily playing games like World of Warcraft. Compared with a control group who spent less than two hours a day online.
The gamers had less grey matter (the thinking part of the brain).
Other studies show that a reduction of in-game time leads to a reduction in grey matter.
It’s all very controversial as the makers of games like Minecraft would argue that these are learning tools and not really games. It’s… “Less about open-ended play and more about working to complete the never-ending stacks of buildings.”
So what are parents to think and do if they think their kids is addicted to the screen, ipad or minecraft?
What is clear from the MRI scans are that these games are addictive.
Playing them affects the brain’s frontal cortex — which controls executive functioning, including impulse control — in exactly the same way that cocaine does.
Playing these games raises dopamine levels — the feel-good neurotransmitter most involved in the addiction dynamic like with food.
Yes, that’s right. When your kid is lost in the realm of Minecraft. Their brain looks like a brain on drugs!
It’s no wonder it’s hard to get the kids away from the screen and doing an activity other than what they are involved in at the moment.
My personal belief is that screen time is a lifeline for many kids, but it should be limited and this limit should be consistent so it forms good habits.
However, there are not a lot of science backed conclusions that provide accurate guidelines for how much time is appropriate for kids of different ages.
The UK’s Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) does not set time limits for different age groups because there’s a lack of evidence.
The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that screen time should be replaced with more time for interaction, physical activity and sleep.
There’s some notes from the NHS on toddlers and babies here: https://www.nhs.uk/news/pregnancy-and-child/who-guidelines-screen-time/#:~:text=They%20say%20children%20aged%203,day%20screen%20time%2C%20preferably%20less.
Not too helpful, but parents are switched on and can make sensible guidelines for their own kids.
When it comes to getting kids of games and smartphones. You need to give them something that is better than what they are doing.
Old favourites are still favourites. Lego is still awesome and has the positive benefits of Minecraft with less of the negatives.
There are also board games like mouse trap, guess who…
The family favourites are still winners.
Remember that kids also want to mimic their friends and their parents too.
If you spend more time using a screen, they’ll want to do this as well. So as a family it’s a great idea to have alternatives to hand that are fun to do as group.
Even Steve Jobs had no technology dinners with his kids.
If you need a little more ideas for getting kids of consoles, here’s some more tips
If you need some inspiration, here is how far some people will go to stop kids using technology.
The key is to prevent your child from getting hooked on these games, to begin with. becoming a minecraft kid
There’s a bias to playing Minecraft in this article, the kids also watch videos on the topic too by the way.
It’s just human nature to get obsessed with things we can identify with.
When I was a kid it was Mario kart on the super Nintendo. But after a few years, it went into the cupboard with my Mr Potato Head, Walkman, Transformers and Gameboy.
Minecraft is probably going to end up here as well and once more, our children will go back to watching cute cat videos on YouTube or venturing outside to play.