Dealing with Our Sons’ Minecraft Obsession

Was it really only a month ago that I bought the pocket version of Minecraft for my boys? It feels like an eternity.

Dealing with Our Sons' Minecraft Obsession

See, at first, everything was fine. They were playing in short bursts of time, just trying to navigate the user interface and rules of play. They were also figuring out how they could “connect” – one on his iTouch, one on his Android MG – which was awesome to me. My boys are 5 and 11, and there really isn’t much they enjoy playing together. Minecraft seemed like a great new opportunity for them to interact.

I tried playing with them, but found the Minecraft graphics gave me a headache and the basic play (build, build, build, smash, smash, smash, walk around, etc) was boring. But…my boys seemed to love it, and soon they were playing all. the. time.

I started hearing about monsters and creepers and villagers. My sons became emotionally invested. They downloaded other (free) apps that helped teach them strategy. My 11yo started listening to Minecraft parody songs (“Don’t Mine At Night,” etc). Both boys were watching a steady stream of Minecraft videos on YouTube.

Minecraft screen shot

I had downloaded the PC version of Minecraft, and then both boys started to fight over the computer. Our home wifi is often glitchy, and sometimes when they tried to connect, one or the other would get kicked out of the game. My 5yo in particular would start screaming when this happened. Thus began the daily “Minecraft Meltdowns.”

The depth and intensity with which Minecraft became an obsession for my boys was startling.

I am not fundamentally opposed to the game. Neanderthal graphics aside, I believe Minecraft requires a lot of creativity, strategy, engineering skills, and more. And when our wifi is playing nice, I love seeing my boys side-by-side, engaged in something together. It is not overly violent (though in “Survival Mode,” there are creepers to kill), and doesn’t have obnoxious sound effects. As a game – in and of itself – it’s pretty awesome, actually.

What is not awesome is how quickly it became the end-all-be-all for my sons. They complained when it was time to get off the computer, becoming defiant even. They stopped interacting as much with our family outside of the game. My 5yo son woke up one night – twice – insisting that he needed to get on the game to finish building something.

Thus began the Major Minecraft Intervention.

First, I made my boys go cold turkey Рno more Minecraft at all. It was not easy. There were tears (from the 5yo) and cold shoulders (from the 11yo).

After about a week of detox from Minecraft, we’ve been slowly reintroducing the game, but with several restrictions. Mainly, that they play for a limited time, take significant breaks, and prove they can become engaged in “analog” (non screen-related) activities.

What has been the hardest part of this Minecraft Intervention? HAVING TO ACTUALLY PARENT.

I’m embarrassed to admit how easy it was to let my boys fall into this mindless screen addiction in the first place. All the things we’re doing now to limit their play time? I should have been doing that from the beginning. And now that we’re telling them DON’T DO THAT? Means I actually have to say DO THIS INSTEAD. The “this” being something I either provide as an option or engage in with them.

For instance, my 5yo’s “analog” time has included a lot of playing with his LEGO Hero Factory toys, setting up and knocking down dominoes, putting puzzles together, and him taking long, bubbly baths.

eli playing at home

My house has gotten messier. I’ve had less free time. I’VE HAD TO ACTUALLY PARENT.

Which brings me to a question: when our kids become addicted to video games, who’s to blame? The maker of the game? The kids themselves? Or do we as parents bear some responsibility?

This question could really be about anything our children do (or don’t do) that drive us nuts. While at some point kids must take responsibility for their behavior, I will always want to know: What have I done (or not done) as a parent that may have contributed to this situation? What can I do (or not do) NOW as a parent to correct it, if needs be?

Our story with Minecraft isn’t over, not yet. Even with the restrictions in place, I feel my boys chomping at the bit, wanting to play more and more. I’ll keep steady, though, and make sure that this game maintains its relative position in our list of real life priorities. After all, what’s a parent for?

I’m curious: Do your kids play Minecraft? How is that working out in your home?

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  • Raejean

    My son keeps trying to incorporate it into his homework ūüôā
     

  • Nancy

    My E did get into this game for a bit but hasn’t much lately. ¬†We just try to limit tv/video games/computer/electronics to 1-2 hours a day no matter what it is. ¬†So far haven’t had the need for an intervention. ¬†My biggest struggle is getting the girls to put their devices down at night – making sure that reading is taking priority over flashier distractions. ¬†

  • Rachel

    TV/Wii/computer games¬†became a problem with my boys a few years ago. I tried setting boudaries (1-2 hours per day, after homework). But when they didn’t get their full 1-2 hours, the complained and asked for more the next day. I also realized that their countenance changed. My older son was too intense, too hooked on¬†whatever video game he was playing, a poor sport playing with his younger brother. So I cut out all electronics on weekdays. BEST DECISION EVER for my family. It IS more work for me. More mess, more interacting with the kids. But I love all the other ways¬†they’ve found ways to fill their time. More artwork, more building great creations, more reading, more playing outside. More peace in home home in general. To some families this sounds extreme, but it works really well for us.

    More details – I don’t limit TV on weekends. We’re usually out doing things, so they don’t veg all day. And if they do, once in a while is okay with me. I DO still limit computer games and Wii because my older son is still too intense about games. My husband or I (or a babysitter) need to help coach him through playing¬†with my younger son. We also have a timer they use for taking turns, whether it be sole use of the computer or who gets to be P1 or P2 because my oldest tends to dominate the play time.

    • Spore the Saiyan

      Your older son is a huge gamer, & that’s fine. No need to worry, you’re doing fine. =)

  • Rachel

    BTW – it won’t take long before they find ways to occupy themselves without needing direction from you. Not that they will play independently all the time. They just won’t need to come to you for ideas on how to spend their time. If they’ve used video games as a mental crutch, I bet¬†once they get their analog gears turning again they’ll be just fine.

  • Carrie

    Thanks for the kick in the pants.¬† We do pretty well at limiting the games (at least on weekdays) but it’s the TV that is on all the time that really needs to stop.

  • Hillary M

    My son loves this game as well. ¬†However I do have strict “rules” when it comes to his game time. ¬†First being when I ask him to do something, if he does not do it when I’ve asked he looses the game for the entire next day. ¬†The game and gaming systems are 100% off limits until everyone has completed homework & chores….often times this means he has to wait for his sisters to finish, which in turn means he becomes VERY helpful to them! LOL!! ¬†We also have an 8pm shut off time for ALL devices in our house…including TV, cell phones, ipods ect.¬†

    A new rule we’ve had to¬†implement¬†is no gaming before school in the morning. ¬†We have had too many mornings where he has not completed his morning tasks because he is too focused on getting to the game.

  • Ohhhh my goodness.¬† I totally understand everything you just typed!¬† My son was introduced to Minecraft a few months ago and it also turned into a huge time suck for him.¬† I’ve also had to stage some Minecraft interventions in our home.¬† Thankfully, he’s not so focused on it, anymore.¬† But yeah….been there, done that.

  • I totally get everything you wrote. Our boys (5 & 10) both love it. Sometimes way too much, more so our oldest. When his math started slipping, we decided to really set more of a limit in place. He’s still limited now, but more unlimited on the weekends, more so because we’re usually out and about more so then. I still feel like he could use more intervention, though. I’ve noticed what you said about countenance changing, interest levels in other things going down…. we’re still in this. Parenting with all the technology we have now is so hard. It’s def been on my mind so strongly lately. It’s almost overwhelming trying to set limits for everything. But def needs done in order to keep technology from taking over real everyday life. I’m rambling, it’s just so good to read this post and know we’re not alone.:)

    • Spore the Saiyan

      Warning: Try not to set too strict limitations, as this could cause problems between you & the child. Lots of parents have had to learn this the hard way.

  • Amy

    My 8 y/o son, an only child began playing about 4 mo. Ago. at first I thought this was an innocent game where he could interact with friends, since we have no kids in our neighborhood. A mo. ago he walked in his sleep 2 nights in a row the 2nd night he was walking to the game system when I found him. he also had a few bathroom accidents bc he wasn’t getting off to go. Then recently he learned the “F” word. of course after the sleeping incident I became concerned and began limiting his time on the game, set up passwords to limit friend requests, and have to hide controls. developmentally he has not gained internal control of habits and my job parenting is to provide him with external boundaries, yet I am at a point of wanting to yank out the Xbox. this has been a learning experience for me @ technology and its affects on children and potential risks with access to unknown players. my dilemma is to have him stop playing for a time to get him back on track with other interests… and then put in more strict boundaries when reintroducing the game back in his life….

  • Crystal

    Look up homeschooling/school projects with minecraft. Its absolutely amazing. I homeschool my 4 children and until today I was annoyed with minecraft. Now that I see how much stuff I can do using minecraft I am super excited to start using it to help them learn. ūüôā

  • Anonymous

    fun

  • Spore the Saiyan

    *Sigh* Minecraft doesn’t have bad graphics, it’s just the textures that are 16 bit. 2 completley different things.