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All three of my sons, who are elementary-aged, enjoy playing Minecraft. We have two computers and two accounts, so we can play in multi-player worlds. They really seem to like it when I play with them in the same world.

My issues with this are these:

  • I view screen time as more of a necessary evil than anything else. My boys get 30 minutes each per day, and I would be happier if it were less.
  • The interactions we have are not very high quality: occasionally sharing resources, sometimes planning together.
  • I'm concerned about communicating that interacting over video games is quality human interaction.

So, this is basically a conflict between my understanding of what's best for my kids, and what they enjoy. How should I approach this? Should my priority be to push for my values, to do something that seems to be meaningful to them, or find some middle ground?

  • "I'm concerned about communicating that interacting over video games is quality human interaction." I don't really understand what you are trying to say. Are you using the text chat ingame? Which would teach them how to type on a keyboard and also helps with spelling. Or are you sitting next to each other talking? – Pudora Feb 22 '17 at 9:42
  • Usually sitting in adjacent rooms, talking. (Our WiFi strength is terrible!) – adam.baker Feb 22 '17 at 14:34
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    To be fair, if they want to spend that 30 minutes playing minecraft instead of hitting each other with sticks on the backyard, let then. It's a game that has a giant spectrum of constructive values built right into it's gameplay - organization, patience, persistence, anger management, exploration, etc. That game is a fantastic teaching tool and a thousand times better if you're able to play with your kids. – T. Sar Feb 22 '17 at 15:54
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    Find a balance. Share what you enjoy with them, and let them share what they are interested in with you. You shouldn't spend all your together time on the computer, but if they actually want to share what little screen time they get with you, you should count that as a big win as a parent. – Francine DeGrood Taylor Feb 22 '17 at 16:43
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    Also, your kids learn balance from you. Some day soon, they may not choose to have you around as much. Teach them while they are open to your opinions. – WRX Feb 22 '17 at 21:45
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Yes, you absolutely should

Your boys are trying to share something valuable and important with you. I doubt you'd be this worried about it if it wasn't digital - what would you do if they wanted to build lego with you? Or draw, or paint? This is the same thing. They want you involved in their activities.

I view screen time as more of a necessary evil than anything else. My boys get 30 minutes each per day, and I would be happier if it were less.

So where's the harm in sharing that screen time with them?

The interactions we have are not very high quality: occasionally sharing resources, sometimes planning together.

You may get more out of it by bringing a more focused attitude to the game. When I multi with my two boys, I tend to do most of the building and working with the game mechanics - I construct a house, a farm, storage, crafting areas, etc, which the boys can then use when needed. It helps keep them more focused in a single area, and helps to inspire them to build their own creations.

I'm concerned about communicating that interacting over video games is quality human interaction.

Both of my boys have their own COWs (Computers On Wheels), so when we multi in Minecraft we bring all our computers together into the same room and we can talk to one another directly. The game then becomes an activity we're all enjoying together, rather than the medium of our interaction.

So, this is basically a conflict between my understanding of what's best for my kids, and what they enjoy. How should I approach this? Should my priority be to push for my values, to do something that seems to be meaningful to them, or find some middle ground?

So I go back to my original point - this is an activity they want to share with you. I doubt you'd be this conflicted if they wanted to build with Lego with you, or draw, or play a sport. If you insist on only pushing your values, you discourage independence of thinking or action, and teach your kids that what's important to them doesn't matter to their parents.

Plus, Minecraft is awesomely good fun.

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    COWs is an excellent idea, especially for LAN parties! – NonlinearFruit Feb 27 '17 at 13:58
  • Great answer! And i must add that OP should actually try to make redstone projects. Some are really easy and I've worked with children that got really into logical operations because of it! – wannabeLearner Mar 14 '17 at 18:48
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Yes!

I view screen time as more of a necessary evil than anything else. My boys get 30 minutes each per day, and I would be happier if it were less.

You've given them a resource (30 min of screen) so let them spend it how they please. They want to spend it with you and that is huge!

The interactions we have are not very high quality: occasionally sharing resources, sometimes planning together.

To improve this, try playing the role of the helper with the goal of encouraging their creativity. For example:

  • Live in their base (servant's quarters?)
  • Ask "What is our project for today?"
    • Give suggestions that push their creativity
    • "How about a redstone bridge?"
    • "How about a minecart transportation system?"
  • Help collect the resources for their projects
  • Ask "What if we [idea to improve their base]?"

By acting as a helper, you can use Minecraft to teach almost anything: architecture, civil engineering, electrical engineering, animal husbandry, math, computer science, history, medieval Japanese poetry, etc.

I'm concerned about communicating that interacting over video games is quality human interaction.

The best way to show that human interaction is better than digital interaction is to have real-world quality time. Restricting the screen time you gave them (because they want to do co-op) would be unfair.

Should my priority be to push for my values, to do something that seems to be meaningful to them, or find some middle ground?

If they want to spend their allotted 30 minutes with you stretching their creativity muscles, then do it!


Minecraft

Here are a couple resources to provide some idea for the possibilities that Minecraft places at your finger tips. The only limit is your creativity. A lot of lessons are designed for teachers but this is your children's recreational time so don't be rigid. Come up with ideas, make suggestions, but let the kids decide what they want to do.

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I view screen time as more of a necessary evil than anything else. My boys get 30 minutes each per day, and I would be happier if it were less.

30 minutes is not that bad on the whole and I feel you've done well to keep it to this. I myself have a seven year old child that plays Minecraft and sometimes we sit and play together. I sit back sometimes and think just how creative he is when it comes to building and gathering resources. It's not a bad game to play and 30 minutes is not that long.

The interactions we have are not very high quality: occasionally sharing resources, sometimes planning together.

Maybe you could bump this up a little and try to engage more with them. Gaming is something that's around now and it's bigger than ever. Your children will enjoy playing the game but they'll enjoy it more with you. Furthermore if you're playing on separate screens you're helping them understand online which is something almost every game will have as they grow up and start to engage with other online people.

So, this is basically a conflict between my understanding of what's best for my kids, and what they enjoy. How should I approach this?

I think you have done this with limiting screen time to 30 minutes. Like I said that's not that long and you've done well to keep it to this. Minecraft is basically gathering resources and using those resources to craft/build. This can be achieved in other ways, such as going outside to build dens or using Lego to build if you want to keep it indoors.

Should my priority be to push for my values, to do something that seems to be meaningful to them, or find some middle ground?

When you say something that seems more meaningful to them, what exactly do you mean? I think if you want to scrap screen time altogether I would have to disagree. Don't encourage screen time but don't take it away either. I would find some middle ground and that would depend on their interests. For a long time I had the same view as you and it didn't work. In the end we settled to some screen time and I controlled when and how long it could be for. We also said that he could only have screen time as long as homework was done and his other toys tidied away. When not on the screen, we draw, colour, build Lego, or play with other toys together and in general we have a happy son, a little crazy and hyper at times but happy which makes us happy.

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I don't know why people think the addition of a computer magically sucks the quality and humanity out of an interaction. If that were so, it would make no difference to your sons whether you participated or not. Playing Minecraft with your kids:

  • Shows a sincere interest in their interests.
  • Lets them see how an adult responds to the same challenges they are facing: preparing ahead of time, judging risk versus reward, staying calm in the face of adversity, persevering through boring tasks, dealing with setbacks, etc.
  • Lets them take the lead in a low-risk way, on an even playing field with you.

My son tends to play Minecraft somewhat aimlessly on his own. Then if I play with him, he becomes more focused for a few days. He starts accomplishing the goals he has set for himself. He instinctively knows I have this effect on him, although he doesn't understand why.

I would encourage you to try to objectively look at how your sons play with you and without you. There is a reason they want you to play, even if they are not consciously aware of it. They are getting some positive social value out of it. I think you will be pleasantly surprised.

  • I agree, it's a tool like any tool. If all you do is one thing, of course it is a problem. We need variety and as long as we give our kids opportunities do select from different activities, it's all good. I have a friend who is always reading. That is what she does -- up to eight hours a day. Sure, she might learn stuff, but she never goes out anymore. It is no better than watching TV all day, but there's a stigma with TV than reading doesn't have. Just what is the difference between a Danielle Steele and NCIS? Not much if that's all you're doing. – WRX Feb 23 '17 at 23:45

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