Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for Minecraft for parents.

These are some of the most common questions that I get from other parents about Minecraft.

Game Safety

The game itself takes up relatively little space and there’s no risk of viruses or malware from downloading the software. It takes a lot of memory to play which can make the computer run hot (the fan will often work overtime). Where the potential danger comes in is with files created by outside parties (mods, texture packs) or connecting to servers run by unknown people.

Yes and it’s super easy to do. Note that other players won’t know whether you’ve disabled the chat feature.

How do I turn it off?
1.  Click on Options
2.  Select the Multiplayer Settings
3. Click on Chat to toggle the settings between Shown, Hidden and Commands Only.

The game itself (if bought directly from the Mojang website or App store) is almost guaranteed to be free from viruses and malware. Likewise, it’s very difficult for someone to infect your computer while you’re connected to a multiplayer server. There is a very real danger of getting a virus or malware from mods and texture packs, or the sites that host them, and you should only download these from reputable sources on computers running good anti-virus protection.

Any file that you download from the internet has the potential to contain a virus or malware.

In the PC version, nobody can join your single player game unless you want them to. You can manually allow your world to be accessed by others nearby by opening it to LAN, but only people connected to your network (in your house or classroom) will be able to join. If you operate a server then anyone with the IP address can join the game, but usually people don’t know that unless you give it to them. You can protect your server with a whitelist, which means that only players to whom you’ve given access will be allowed to join.
For console games, you need to make sure that your game isn’t accessible to other players by ticking ‘invite only’ or unticking ‘online world’ when you start the game.

Just as with real life, there are risks involved in letting your kids play with people you don’t know in a space that may not have been designed for kids. On a Minecraft multiplayer server, the main risks are bullying and exposure to inappropriate language or content. Some servers are better than others at putting measures in place to protect players from these things, so it’s important that you carefully research and vet any multiplayer server that your kids want to join.

Yes there is a voice chat facility with the console versions of the game (Xbox 360 and PS3). The chat facility within the computer edition of Minecraft is only text-based. Some players like to also run a Skype session to talk to each other as they play, but unless you opt in to doing that then you won’t hear the other players.

Only if they’re playing on a multiplayer server with the chat feature turned on. Single player and multiplayer LAN games are totally safe, as they’re restricted to the player or those who are physically nearby and can connect to the same network they’re using. For console versions, strangers can be blocked by setting the game to ‘invite only’ or leaving the ‘online’ button unchecked.

There’s no way to configure the game itself to block Multiplayer mode, but playing with someone else requires an internet connection of some kind. So setting the device to play offline (by removing access to wifi for example) will effectively restrict the options to only Single Player mode.

Getting Started

There is one Minecraft game, but three different versions depending on the platform that you play on – computer (Mac or PC), gaming consoles (Xbox One and 360, PS3 and PS4) and pocket edition for mobile devices.

Approximate cost in US dollars:
Computer – $27
Game consoles – $20
Mobile devices – $7

The Minecraft Store, app stores or retailers such as Amazon

Not with the console or pocket editions, but it will sometimes cost extra to play the computer edition on a multiplayer server with other people outside of your own house or local area network (LAN).

More than one person can use the same account, but only one player can be logged into the account on a computer at any one time. The game files which are stored on that computer (data about worlds created, items collected and achievements) are updated each time someone plays using that account. This means that if your kids want to use the same computer but keep the things they do in the game separate, then they’ll each need their own account. Likewise if they want to play on a multiplayer server at the same time with different usernames, you’ll need more than one account.

You can install your copy of Minecraft on as many computers as you want, but to log in as different players you’ll need multiple accounts.

Kids & Minecraft

It’s not a game which was specifically created for kids, but there is nothing in the game that could really be considered ‘adult content’. The console version is officially rated by the ESRB as E10+ (ages 10 and up), the PE is rated 4+ for iOS (ages 4 and up) and ‘low maturity’ for Google Play, and the computer version is unrated (but is similar in content to the console version).

Kids are attracted to Minecraft by the chance to be super creative in a world of their own creation, in which they’re in control and can decide where to live and when to eat and what to do. They build their own safe spaces from which they feel emboldened to venture out and take risks. They experience the thrill of the chase and the freedom to run and explore and just be. They can decide when and what to destroy, and that combination of both construction and destruction is part of what makes the game so much fun. It’s just the right balance of challenge and reward and fun – not so hard that you give up, but not so easy that it becomes boring. That makes it incredibly attractive and engaging to play. And for many kids, Minecraft is so much more than a game – it’s a way to express themselves. What they choose to create, the adventures they invent, even the way their character looks is a reflection on their experiences and interests and skills. They can put their individual stamp on the game, and have an instant connection to a whole community of like-minded people with whom they can share all of that.

Minecraft can be a fantastic experience for kids. There are a whole heap of benefits to playing the game, but it also has the potential to create problems for some families. On the whole there’s nothing to fear from Minecraft as long as you’re prepared to supervise, step in when your kids need help and/or help them find and stick to limits to keep their gameplay safe and healthy. It’s a game that requires time and input from parents, and some people aren’t willing to commit to that.

There’s no doubt that too much screen time is bad for you, but every parent has a different idea of where that ‘too much’ line is. While on the one hand it’s wonderful to see kids engaging in stimulating mind-work with such intense concentration, it’s also easy to become so engrossed in the game that you lose time when playing – resulting in sessions that could potentially go on for hours and hours without interruption. How many hours depends on your definition of ‘too much screen time’ and other factors like whether they’re taking regular breaks, the effect on their mood and the impact on responsibilities such as chores, homework, eating and sleep.

The health and safety guidelines for playing Minecraft really aren’t any different from other types of online play or internet use. Sitting in a chair staring at a screen for long hours at a time without a break is bad for you, no matter what you’re doing on that screen.

Players can hit and kill animals, and in multiplayer mode they can hit and kill each other. Neither of these are the primary focus of the game and it’s not graphic at all. On some difficulty levels players need to defend themselves against attacks from bad guys such as skeletons or creepers, usually by running or hiding but also by directly attacking them, blowing them up or setting them on fire. There are simple weapons such as swords and axes, but no guns. All of this sounds more violent that the game actually feels – there is no blood or gore or gruesome sound effects.

The game contains little-to-no content that most would call inappropriate – there’s no sex or swearing, and very minimal violence (and there’s no blood). But there’s a huge amount of player-created modified content and add-ons that you can download and incorporate into the game. The amount of access that kids have to these is equal to the amount of access they have to the internet – if you supervise where they go and what they see while connected online, then you can have full control over the appropriateness of the content that they see while playing Minecraft.

Minecraft is not just a game for kids. Much of the content on YouTube is created by adults for adults, and may contain language and concepts that most parents would deem inappropriate. So it’s important to keep a watchful eye over what your kids are actually watching when they say “Minecraft stuff”. Many of these videos are just people playing the game, and watching these with the sound off is usually an effective workaround (keep an eye out for chat windows which can contain swearing). There are also some YouTube channels that can be considered family-friendly.

Single player mode – Disconnect the internet on any device on which they’re playing. You don’t need to be online in order to play Minecraft in single player mode. Multi player mode – Block access to the web browser. You don’t need it to play online on either a LAN or remote multi player server.

Yes. There are lots of places online to download pre-made skins and some of these can be considered inappropriate, usually due to nudity or violent images. There aren’t a lot of pixels in the skin image, but people have learned very creative ways to use them. So if your kids are playing on a public multiplayer server then there’s a chance they may come across people using skins that you might consider inappropriate.

The game logs some basic stats for each player, such as the number of blocks destroyed and distance walked. One of these stats is time played, shown in minutes or hours or days. So you could check this stat to see if it has changed (note that it is per world, not for the game overall). You can also check the game files to see when they were last updated (if you don’t know where to find the game files, check the articles about installing mods or finding your screenshots). 
You can also search for the Minecraft application and see when it was last opened.

It’s very easy and common for both kids and adults to become obsessed with playing Minecraft. It’s also the kind of game that can’t really be played in short bursts.

The Hunger Games is a popular style of adventure map inspired by the book/movie series, where players have to engage in a series of tests or challenges in order to survive. These are often run on multiplayer servers as tournaments. There isn’t just a single map called Hunger Games, there are hundreds, and as they’re created by users they aren’t rated for their appropriateness or quality. The style of game can often be quite fast and brutal, since the aim is to compete for survival – players engage in activities such as stealing, setting traps and teaming up to attack other players. This style of play usually isn’t suited to new players or young kids.

There are literally thousands of mods, texture packs, adventure maps and other user-created content, with no rating system for any of them. The only way to know if this content is suitable for your kids is to either play it yourself or take recommendations from someone who has. Always keep in mind that Minecraft is a game that is played by adults as well as kids.

Yes, Minecraft can be an excellent educational tool. Just Google ‘Minecraft education’ and you’ll see lots of people using the game for learning. In addition, the game itself requires and rewards very high level thinking and problem-solving skills.

Yes. After you log in, choose Multi Player and choose from the list of available servers. If the server you want to join isn’t on the list and you have the address, click on Add Server.

MineCon is the annual Minecraft convention, where people of all ages who enjoy the game can come together to share their experiences and learn more about upcoming developments. It’s run by Mojang and held in a different city each year.

Playing The Game

This is only limited by the amount of available space on the device on which you’re playing. World files are usually less than 100MB each.

A lot of people get motion sickness when playing 3D games like Minecraft, and vertigo and headaches can also cause problems. Playing in third person and turning off the head bobbing can sometimes help. Some other things that might work are changing eye focus away from the screen regularly, not playing in fullscreen, increasing the frame-rate, taking regular breaks, turning down the display brightness and playing in a well-lit room.

A seed is a unique identifier for a particular world, which is automatically assigned when the world is created. You can manually enter a code when you start a new world to generate that specific world. In this way, players can each generate the same world on different computers or create the same new world over and over again.

Yep! Minecraft is a game that you can play by yourself (single player) or with others (multiplayer). Lots of people use and enjoy single player mode.

The game has to do a lot of work behind the scenes to display the action onscreen, and if it gets overloaded the processing slows down for a moment. This causes the display to react slower than the player input, which is called lagging. The action on the screen will look choppy and there might be a delay between the player clicking and the game responding, which can be really frustrating. It usually happens on multiplayer games and servers, especially when a lot of players are online at the same time. It can also happen on single player games too, so try reducing the frame rate and render distance to help speed things up.

Some parents find the music to be irritating, so if you really can’t stand to listen to it you can turn off the music in the game settings.

How do I do that?
1.  Pause the game (press Esc) and click Options
2.  Click on Music & Sounds
3.  Drag the slider to adjust the master volume. You can also adjust the individual volume of:

  • Music
  • Jukebox/noteblocks (special blocks which play a prerecorded ‘music disc’)
  • Weather (thunderstorms and rain)
  • Blocks
  • Hostile and friendly creatures
  • Players
  • Ambient sounds (noises that happen as you’re exploring, like spooky cave sounds)

It depends on what the mod does and whether it’s installed just for the player (called the client) or the server as a whole. If the mod just changes the appearance or number of things then everyone can play regardless of whether they have the mod. For server-side mods, if they change the way the game works (add new blocks or change the way things are crafted) then everyone needs to have the mod installed to join the game. If you have client-side mods like this you might run into problems on a LAN game or multiplayer server where others don’t have that mod installed.

In Creative mode the inventory is infinite, meaning that more blocks and items are always available. In Survival mode, blocks and items can only be replenished if the player has more of them in their inventory. Alternatively you can temporarily switch back to Creative mode and grab some more. However there is no undo button in Minecraft, so constructions that are destroyed can only be replaced by rebuilding them.

Yes. Each time you start a game or open a world in the computer version, open the command line (by typing T) and type this: /gamerule keepInventory true

There are people who get enjoyment out of destroying or stealing the things that other plays build and collect. This is called griefing, and it can be a big issue on multiplayer servers. It’s not a problem that’s unique to Minecraft, but it’s easier to do than in other games

Mods are unofficial changes to the way the game looks or acts. They’re made by other players and downloaded from public websites like forums, so they can be a lot of fun but also come with risks

Like mods, resource packs are files which modify the game except in this case they just replace images and sound files so they’re a lot less risky.

A map is a world that players create in Minecraft. Players often spend a lot of time creating interesting, fun or spectacular worlds which they give away to other players. Adventure maps are a particular type of world where players follow a story and solve puzzles to reach specific goals.

No. Updates are downloaded and applied to existing worlds automatically when you launch the game, so any new items or mobs will be available in those worlds the next time they’re opened.

Yes, you can play in single player mode when you’re not online.

Yes, the bad guys are called ‘hostile mobs’ and you can turn them off by setting the game mode to Peaceful. You can also stop them from spawning in Survival mode by typing the command /gamerule doMobSpawning false, although this will also turn off non-hostile mobs like sheep and cows.

No, there are no naturally occurring Cave Spiders or hostile mob spawners in the mineshafts in Creative mode. There are mob spawners in Peaceful level, but any creatures that spawn instantly despawn.

Some ores can only be mined with a pickaxe made of a specific material. Coal and nether quartz can be collected with any pickaxe. Iron and lapis lazuli requires a stone pickaxe or better. Gold, diamond, redstone and emerald require an iron pickaxe or better, and you can only mine obsidian with a pickaxe made of diamond.

Nope, it’s possible to play the game without harming any animals but there are some items that can only be crafted from animal sources. There are non-animal sources of food and dye, but the feathers needed to make arrows can only be collected by killing chickens. The leather used to make books and item frames can only be gathered from killing horses or cows, and black dye can only come from killing a squid. None of these items are essential to playing the game (and of course in Creative mode all items are readily available without needing to harm anything).

You don’t have to feed villagers, but if you’re playing in Survival mode on any difficulty level other than Peaceful then your player will need to eat to replenish the hunger bar before all of the turkey leg icons disappear.

To get to the end of the game, you need to kill an Ender Dragon. If you’re successful and jump through the portal which appears, you see a screen of scrolling text with a story on it before being sent back to your spawn point.

1 day of Minecraft time is 20 minutes in real time. Day lasts for 10 minutes, sunrise and sunset are 1.5 minutes each and night lasts for 7 minutes.

Player vs Player is a style of play where players fight with each other using weapons, often in purpose-built arenas.

A skin is the image file that gives each player their unique look. Everyone starts with the same default one (known as Steve), but this can be easily customized. Skins can also refer to the textures of other things in the game too, like blocks or animals. You can find a ton of readymade ones online (like Minecraftskins.net) or make your own (on sites like Skindex or NovaSkin).

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