The 3-D block-building game, Minecraft, doesn’t look like much at first glance, but did you know that if your children don’t pay close attention, they could build themselves a world of privacy concerns? Just tell them that creepers, spiders, skeletons and zombies aren’t the only threats they have to worry about, and watch how quickly they pay attention.
What’s The Big Deal?
Following are some things parents should know before allowing their children to play Minecraft in multi-player mode:
- Children interact with players they don’t know (many of whom could be older) when playing in multi-player mode, with their activities taking place on private servers; anyone can set up a server, anywhere;
- Private, unmoderated chat feature that could easily expose your children to inappropriate conversations, profanity, or chat spamming;
- Aggression in the form of cyberbullying or “griefing,” which involves destroying what other players have built, or exposing them to inappropriate structures
- Social engineering where other players attempt to gain your child’s trust
Things You Can Do At Home To Protect Your Children
- Have your child play in single-player mode off-line, and use your good judgment to decide when to allow them to interact with players they don’t know; remember, no two children are alike;
- Don’t allow your children to play unsupervised; if possible have them play in the same room you’re in, e.g. the kitchen or living room;
- Turn-off the “chat” feature in settings, if they do play in multi-player mode;
- Review online safety and privacy concerns with your children so they know not to share any personal information online, e.g. name, email address, gender, age, where they live or go to school, or any other identifying information that would enable an identity thief or anyone else from guessing their identity;
- Double-check to make sure your child’s username is fictitious;
- Engage your children by genuinely showing interest in how they play and ask; questions; if they know you’ll talk about Minecraft, they’re more likely to talk to you about more important things, too.
Common sense dictates that parents set limits on screen time. The good news is that games such as Minecraft help children develop their creativity and problem solving skills. All we need to do is remind them that as easy as it is to turn pigs into pork chops and cows into steak, is how easily they can divulge their personal information while playing in multi-player mode; all it takes is a few keystrokes.