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Oct 05 2012

Thou Shall Not Play

THOU SHALL NOT PLAY

Give me strength, for if another young male creature in this house utters the word “Minecraft,” I may strangle it with its own entrails. My ears, they ring with words like creeper and mining and server. Soon they shall implode and drip blood, which will roll out of my ears in block form. Not familiar with this game? You either live in a cave (LUCKY!), or have Luddites as children.

For the blissfully ignorant, Minecraft is the slippery slope into Internet addiction and a life of living in my basement a Lego-type computer game. Players create whole worlds out of cubes, mine the land for more resources, and can play with others around the world. For the rest of us, it is the topic of every dinner table conversation, the background noise of our days, and will be the downfall of Western civilization when moms hit their breaking point and destroy power grids just to stop the madness.

The irony here, because there of course must be irony, is that I refuse to purchase the game for the boys. They do not have it, they do not play it. I’ve been informed on more than one occasion that I am a mean mom and that they are the only ones who don’t have the game. They are actually more than a little correct; all of their friends do play Minecraft, and I’m so used to being a mean mom that the accusation just gets filed away in the recycle bin with the others.

So, like a male gynecologist, they are experts on something with which they have zero firsthand experience. They watch Minecraft videos on YouTube, they build creepers out of Legos (see above), they talk about it non-stop with friends. But they don’t play. I have my reasons, and I’m not budging. I thought for a long time that we’d get it eventually, and that I could use it as currency for behavior and chores. I’ve since changed my mind. Both boys, but especially A, are skirting around the edge of screen addiction. We don’t have cable, only a Roku box, so they don’t watch much tv. But computers and iDevices have more than taken up the slack.

It’s tough, because A needs his tiny little netbook for school. He’s learning programming, needs it for a writing class he’s taking, and watches documentaries on the subjects he’s studying. His activities and classes are becoming more reliant on email and Skype, and that will only increase as the years go on. J practices math facts and roams the globe on Google Earth with his rapidly aging iPod. Most of the time they use tech for good, not evil. But then the balance tips and I don’t like the results.

So I’ve decided there will be no Minecraft in the House of Chaos. I’ve checked and double-checked my gut, and decided I don’t give a rat’s ass if that makes me a mean and out of touch mom. We don’t need anything else competing for our sons’ attention, especially since they already have a hard time with executive function issues (again mostly A, but J has his fair share due to his younger age). We don’t need anything else to cause arguments, to make it impossible difficult to turn off the screen, to get prevent going outside to play. With our lives right now, I need them pitching in and doing more around the house, not causing me more work by A) doing what they could easily be doing, B) having to pry them off a computer to do what they’re supposed to be doing, and C) sewing their damned mouths shut so my ears don’t bleed from incessant Minecraft chatter.

I’ve drawn a line in the sand, and it is block-shaped.

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  1. Mona

    The obsession is beyond me, but we are deep in it ourselves. I say “ourselves” purely in the sense that DS is obsessed and the rest of us have to hear about it day and night and in between. When he’s not playing, he’s planning his next building. He wants to be Steve for Halloween. We go for a walk and all I hear about is the server or mods he wants to set up…

    1. Anita

      there’s a family down the street where every member will be dressed as a creeper …

      1. Jen

        Yeah, guess what the boys will going as?

  2. Kate Arms-Roberts

    We have it. P spent his allowance on it. His screen allowance – which is small for non-schoolwork – has not been increased, so he doesn’t play much. We hear about it from time to time, but nothing like the Pokemon with which he has been obsessed for the past 4 years. Honestly, I could do with him becoming obsessed with something new so I can hear less about the Pokemon.

    1. Jen

      Somehow we’ve missed the Pokemon craze. A has a few cards but not many other boys are interested. Praying we’ve dodged a bullet.

  3. kim/TheMakerMom

    To be clear, they ARE the only boys in Illinois without it. But no worries, just wait a few months and they’ll be pining for Realm of the Mad God instead.

    1. Jen

      I do not know that game. Should I fear it? LOL!

  4. Monica Morrell

    Good on ya! Two of my DS11’s friends are into playing the game. DS11 gets frustrated with them since they are always on and they don’t take breaks to play Dungeons and Dragons via Skype. DS11 is into roleplaying and had his friends over before and Skype is a great way for them to connect when face time can’t be arranged. He says he will never play Mincraft no matter how much his friends pester him to start. I’m not complaining. πŸ™‚

    1. Jen

      A is taking a writing class that has its foundation in role playing games like D&D. He and his friends in that class are designing a video game from the class. I can only hope he’ll throw himself into that instead of begging for Minecraft.

  5. Tom

    You didn’t reference “Ready Player One”? #dystopian slam-dunk

  6. Theresa

    Seems like there are always things like that designed to snare kids. I just pick and choose my battles. And lucky me, I have girls. Although I have just been informed that they want me to buy them a kick-boxing bag. So I need to go plan how to rob that bank.

  7. Amber

    Love to hear I am not the only one who does not choose to provide more screen addictive resources. I too have heard the “not fair” and “mean” from my kiddos. But I stand firm and now feel I have a sister-at-arms πŸ™‚ Real legos abound in our house for creation that uses finger dexterity and moving bodies to use. Whole worlds can be made that don’t require more money to complete. Furthermore, our household obsessions at the moment are more on history, mythology and science as those are the books and imagination games the boys are enjoying in place of minecraft. Much more interesting for me.

  8. Suzy

    Virtual high five!

  9. Benoit

    Half the earth further, in the Old World, it’s not different πŸ˜‰
    Except children don’t learn programming and do not use iPad at school…
    T, 11, is allowed to use an old PC of mine (no way somebody would be allowed to touch my I-do-not-want-viruses-or-crashes-on-my-iMac), and hopefully, he can’t install Minecraft because of an obscur Java problem that I won’t explore πŸ˜‰
    He’s quite screen addict so we manage screen time.
    A, 7, is all in Lego world…remembering me when Jen talked about the wandering legos…same here. But he’s so creative. Yesterday, he told me he could not live without legos. We fulfilled his dreams when we went to Legoland (Germany) last summer… πŸ™‚

  10. JenC

    I hear where you’re coming from , but I just added MineCraft to The Boy’s Xmas wish list. It’ll make an excellent incentive for him to earn those video games minutes w/ schoolwork and extra reading. Yes I believe in bribery as a learning tool πŸ™‚

  11. melissa

    Mine are older so, while they played it for a bit, the allure went away quickly and they moved on. But they LOVE Warhammer. Also Realm of the Mad God and World of Tanks. The latter give the same social function that Minecraft has.

    1. Jen

      Oh God, they’ll be begging for those next? LOL!

  12. My Kids Mom

    I was going to say that, yes, mine are Luddites, but they’ve gone and techified themselves on their own. They don’t have Minecraft or any gaming machine, handheld or otherwise, BUT on the old laptop they use for homework they play things they call “educational.” And I lose track of how long they’ve been on screen (because I’m distracted in the other room browsing blogs)

    I have asked them if they want a wii or anything else, and so far they’ve decided they can live without. (Still debating it for xmas) I’ve been very clear that time doesn’t expand. They had to be ready to do less of something else in their day (like playing with real lego) to have time for computer games. But now I see that they already use the computer for play, and it wouldn’t be that different. I’m still afraid of that slippery slope.

  13. Cara Brooke

    I don’t know what is this Minecraft of which you speak. πŸ™‚ However, I’m sure my husband understands.

    My DD pines for a Nintendo DS. For THREE YEARS she has been asking for one. I was actually discussing with DH this morning about how it may be nice to get her for Christmas–but then you had to go and write about how your kids need to pick up the slack a little more around the house so you’re not stuck doing the stuff that they are capable of doing, and I’m instantly reminded of how much I need to nag, nag, nag said child to do her chores each day. (“Whaddya mean ‘YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THEY ARE?!?!’ They’re posted on a piece of paper on the pantry!!!”)

    So, on second thought, I’m thinking that my child does not need the additional distraction either.

    Thank you for causing me pause in making that decision.

    1. Jen

      I flat out told the boys today that Minecraft will never be in this house and exactly why. At this point they could take over every household chore and I wouldn’t back down. They did clean the Lego room today, though. Gah.

  14. DeeDee

    Big YES!!! I share your opinion and rationale on the matter. I have enough things to fight about with my kids without having to deal with computer/video games. I don’t want to feed a screen addiction, no matter how “creative” the game. There are about a hundred other things I’d rather them do anyways.

  15. Ingi

    Mine play Minecraft – or I should say “did”. It seems to have run its course. They are into Space Station 13 right now (whatever that is). They play with their friends, they have something in common with them when they see them in real life and they do other stuff – school work, exercise, chores, having friends over, reading etc. And it gives me time to play Bejewelled Blitz….

  16. ChiTown Girl

    Despite the fact that Stud and his friends play Minecraft, I had NO idea what the hell it was about, or anything about how it’s played. So, thanks for the inside scoop. He just started playing again about 6 months ago, after some time away. He doesn’t get to play as much as he’d like, since his FATHER uses his computer to play some other game all the damn time! Ah, boys….they NEVER grow up, do they?

  17. Nancy M

    Theresa, Minecraft doesn’t require a Y chromosome. πŸ™‚ My daughter obtained a login from a friend (I’m looking at you, B family!) and loves to play. She has taken the fun offline, too, designing and stitching a creeper plushie.
    That said, I have no problem with a parent drawing a line in the sand. What works in one family may be disastrous in another. My kids are relatively compliant when it’s time to unplug, but I have seen other children suffer meltdowns when it’s time to switch gears. Why feed that? Rock on, Jen.

  18. tardis_blue

    Mine doesn’t know it exists, and I think that’s a good thing. I’ve known about it for ages, and considered–briefly–getting it for him, because he loves lego. I ended up deciding no, because we already have screen-time issues (here I am online, and he’s watching a nature doc). I also have not allowed any video game systems in the house. He plays some online video game emulators (he loves Mario and all its incarnations), and some educational online games, but that’s about it. He spends massive quantities of time (and I and the grandparents spend ridiculous amounts of money) on legos. Which is a reason minecraft could be handy–surely it’s cheaper than lego…but we have to hear enough about lego. I can’t imagine what it would be like with all that server/mods crap. Plus, I don’t want to have to worry about who he’s interacting with online. He’s only 8–internet is still strictly supervised. We are not luddites at all–we are some of the more wired people we know–I just believe in a more physical, traditional childhood. We homeschool, so most of our friends are in line with this (and some of them ARE luddites), so I don’t have to worry about peer pressure as much, either.

  19. Sarah

    You are really missing the value of this game. See all of the posts on the Gifted Homeschool FB page.

    1. Jen

      No, I know there is some value to the game. The GHF posts surely indicate that, and I seriously considered the game for the boys for that reason.

  20. Jennifer

    There is a beta site called Minecraft edu where teachers are using the game to teach math, physics, history etc. They have a lesson template that you can use to design your lessons. As it grows, teachers will upload and share lessons they have created. At this point, my sons have volunteered to use the game to map the neighborhood. I have assigned them the task of first designing (on paper) a Roman city then using architectural notation, transferring their design fo the Minecraft Universe. Better yet, my sons (8,11) and their friends (7,13) have decided to study Java programmi.g so that they can design their own modifications. There are servers created by kids where the kids set.. challen…
    ges (building challenges) each week and compare solutions. Truly impressive what they come up with. Minecraft is the “legos” of computer games, and like legos, can be done cooperatively

    1. Jen

      When we moved into this house last year, the boys opted to share a room so the remaining bedroom could be used solely for Legos. I’d rather they create with their hands than spend even more time in front of a screen. I know about the ed Minecraft sites, and I still think my boys are better served by hands-on creating.

  21. King Krak, I Rule the Game

    Are you not, as a home schooling mom, supposed to follow and facilitate the passions of your kids?

    Yet here you are banning something you haven’t made any effort to really learn about. Why? Oh, because you wish to sew “… their damned mouths shut so my ears don’t bleed from incessant Minecraft chatter.” So, this is about you, not your kids. That’s pretty sad.

    When you made the choice to home school your children you did it because it was in their best interests. BUT here you are doing the opposite – banning the best educational game in the world! Banning the game the home schooling community couldn’t recommend higher.

    It’s not too late to wake up; LEARN about your children’s interests rather than BAN them. PLAY Minecraft. It’s like LEGO only much, much better. Google it!

    1. Jen

      As a homeschooler, absolutely I follow and facilitate the passions of my son. And as a parent, I set limits. By your comment it’s clear you are a gamer (and I suspect not a parent), and for you the game works. But for my son, it would not be beneficial. Both of my sons get plenty of screen time, almost too much. They do not need an additional game that, by all indications, would addict them. Even watching Minecraft videos we see a change in their behavior, so I’m not inclined to encourage that. I do puh-LENTY of encouraging their interests, so I’m pretty sure they’ll grow to be functional adults without this game.
      Oh, and they have an entire Lego room, something the homeschooling community also highly recommends. Works for us.

  22. Rose Vasquez

    My boys are 15 and 16 now. They’ve never owned Nintendo or Xbox but have always had games for use on PC. Most have been educational or at least have redeeming educational value. They love Minecraft and many other games and I feel it has some redeeming educational as well as some social value because they can play with their friends online. I don’t moniter their game usage as much as I once did. We homeschooled so one rule was no gaming before 3pm. They self moniter pretty well, they don’t bother asking for mindless repetitive games or terribly violent games. They also don’t watch much TV. We have about a million channels because they come with the package that allows my husband to watch all his football. It makes it hard to find anything to watch. Our old favorite stations, like the discovery channel, when we finally locate one, have dumb shows about men grabbing fish with their bare hands. My boys are taking college classes now. They get their homework done, practice music, do art, attend rehearsals and additional educational and social activities. They are great kids with fairly well balanced lives even if they spend too much time on the computer. One just spent many hours over many days trying to land on the moon and get back to earth safely… And I heard all about strategies, fuel, crashes… Plenty of frustration, until last night, a very excited boy told me the details of his successfully returning to earth. Maybe hearing so many details wold have made me crazy if I wasn’t so happy to hear him talk. He’s autistic so conversation has never been a strength for him. I have to admit, I can’t hear a thing he says when he talks about Magic The Gathering, a card game he plays on the college campus twice a week in the cafeteria before his precalculus class. Like his math homework, it’s like another language to me and goes in one ear and out the other.

    I wanted to share one bit of parenting wisdom. Someone here wrote that they bribe their children with game time. The difference between a bribe and a reward is a bribe comes first. A reward comes after you get the behavior you want. Remember it’s not a bribe to give them a reward for good behavior. It’s effective parenting.

  23. So over

    So I’m a little behind in my reading, but I am up to my eyeballs in Minecraft here. The rule is not during the week. It was good. We were doing fine managing the addiction. Ha! Or so I thought – he was assigned a speech in his communications class. Topic?? You guessed it – Minecraft. Grrrr.

  1. BLOCK THE POWER! - Laughing at Chaos

    […] Two years ago I wrote very forcefully why I was not going to allow Minecraft in my home. […]

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