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Why my son quit Minecraft for good

Why My Son Quit Minecraft For Good

When my 12 year old son told me last week that he’s quitting Minecraft for good I nearly fell off my chair.

He realised he was addicted when he found himself bored while playing it, yet unable to stop himself.

I asked him if he didn’t want to just ease out of it slowly, but he said he wanted to go cold turkey.

I explained that when we give up an addiction we need to replace it with something else or we’ll just go into default mode and carry on.

So he rattled off a whole list of other activities he’ll do on his own such as: play the piano, sing with his microphone, write a song, play ping pong against the wall, make bracelets, make a video, make a fort, etc etc…

Whew! I’m so happy it was him quitting on his own and not me forcing him to.

Now I have a confession to make.

Lately I’ve really lazy about enforcing computer time limits. I’ve been so consumed with creating my on-line programme for busy mothers (writing scripts, shooting videos, promoting, launching and now running the actual programme).

For over two months I’ve turned a blind eye to the amount of time he’s spent on Minecraft.

It felt hypocritical for me to tell him to get off our spare laptop when I myself was on the main computer and his older brother was on his laptop preparing for exams. Guilt was creeping in, but I chose to ignore it.

Although it sucks to admit it, his preoccupation with Minecraft was serving a purpose for me. 

I could get on with my own stuff uninterrupted.

I’d always raised my kids with very firm boundaries around screen time. My first born never even saw the TV switched on until he was two. I’ll never forget the way his eyes filled with shock and wonder when that black box in the corner suddenly lit up. These were the days before iPads and Smartphones, but even then I never wanted to use electronics as a baby sitter.  I’m sure it made life more challenging for me, but I stuck to my values (back then).

I invested a lot of time in teaching them board games and card games, how to make a good fort and reading to them every single night until they were old enough to read to me.

And my investment paid off. They played with each other, doing all of these things I’d taught them and more – until my eldest turned 14 and suddenly homework and DJing took over.

We moved to Madrid when my boys were ten and seven. Unlike their old school, their new one had computers. Neither of my kids knew how to use a keyboard! I’d never allowed computers, always encouraging outdoor play, indoor board games and their imagination.

So how is it that after all of those early years of diligence, MY son could be addicted to a computer game?

I took my eye off the ball that’s how. I got lazy. It felt easier to let him do it so I could get on with my own stuff. Yep. I was letting the computer be the babysitter. Something I always vowed I wouldn’t do.

I was wary of Minecraft right from the beginning and set up timed usage that my boys earned by doing their household chores. They were devastated when their allotted time ran out and would plead for more.

They set up a very compelling presentation to explain Minecraft to my husband and I. They demonstrated how creative it is and how having to stop at just half an hour meant they couldn’t finish what they’d started. (I later realised it’s never finished…)

So I began to allow an hour, sometimes two.

Every summer I’d set up a Minecraft schedule. X amount of time doing other things = x amount of computer time.

In order to remind them of all of the fun stuff they used to do before Minecraft, I got them to create a Not Bored Board. This was a big piece of coloured card board for them to list all of their other fun options. If they were ever feeling bored, they’d just look here for inspiration. It worked a treat. You can see their Not Bored Board here.

Last week when I posted on the Project Me Facebook page that my son had decided to quit Minecraft cold turkey, it got a lot of attention. Everyone wanted to know what made him decide on his own? And now did he come up with this instant list of alternatives?

I believe the reason he recognised his addiction and stopped himself was because deep down he remembered my sermons of past about too much computer time destroying kids ability to play normally. I always talked about how it’s ok to feel bored sometimes and how that allows space to find your true passions.

He remembered all of those time limits I used to enforce. (And he told me last week I was being very slack about it now and that’s how he got addicted. Gulp.)

The reason he was able to rattle off such a great list of fun and creative ideas was because of so many years of making those Not Bored Boards.

As for me, it’s been a wake up call to not become so laid back that I let my values slip. No matter how much I’ve been sold on Minecraft being educational and good for them, I don’t entirely buy it. It’s addictive and it strips away time they could be spending being kids. (The way we used to know it.)

It’s definitely more work for the parents to set and enforce screen time limits. 

It might involve teaching them how to play again. Getting on the floor and showing them how to build a good Brio train track or how to hang sheets over tables to make a fort and how to set up a pretend picnic inside the fort when it’s done.

It definitely means more messes than allowing them to sit with their faces in front of a screen. But kids can also be taught how to turn cleaning up messes into a another fun activity – if it’s sold to them right. (I always made a game out of it.)

Keeping them away from screens means buying board and card games, sitting down to read the instructions and playing them with them often enough so that they learn how to play them with siblings and friends. It’s an investment that really pays off.

I don’t believe it’s our job as parents to constantly entertain our kids, but we need to invest time and energy in the beginning to show them plenty of ideas – and not kid ourselves that computer games are the toys of their generation.

Resources:

Dr. Laura Markham of Aha! Parenting has a great article about why unstructured time for our kids is so important – and has a great list of boredom busters to inspire your kids: Why Boredom Is Good for Kids

How to Create a Not Bored Board (my own blog!)

Every Chance to Learn is a great website for parents who want to help their kids to navigate through this digital age. Dr. Kristy Goodwin shows you healthy, safe and educational ways to make informed decisions about how you use technology in your family.

In the comments below please share your thoughts on this. Does your child play Minecraft? Do you ever get lazy like me? Do you find it confusing raising kids in this digital age? 

photo credit: MinecraftEDU Screenshot via photopin (license)

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  1. Emma on March 30, 2015 at 2:11 PM

    Can really relate to this article,I have seen how my husband used to get around TV game consoles, and PC’s when we were younger, it is so addictive and although they are in our lives I have tried to minimize the childrens time with them. My children will sit and watch film after film if I let them (great for the odd day I am really poorly or when my son is poorly) but at the same time they will go days with out it and will choose to be outside over inside any day (even rainy days). School are pushing PC time, with some of their reading books being online and it being part of their homework to read them on the PC, and my son will research things a lot better on the PC than out of books. But the PC is attached to our TV so it’s in a family space and nobody will put up with anybody being on it for too long!It also was our only tv until we were given a small one which has an inbuilt DVD player and that is all we use it for the odd DVD, say when they are poorly or are having a rest time in the day whilst I clean. I am aware it is all too easy to let them have it a bit longer and have been guilty of this and like you do feel a bit hypocritical because I spend far too much time on the internet and social media myself. I hope my children will be like your son and know when enough is enough, it is definitely something I want to help them understand.

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on March 30, 2015 at 8:31 PM

      Emma, thanks so much for sharing your own story.

      It sounds like your kids have a healthy balance between screens and regular play. You’re doing the best you can! 🙂

  2. Kristy on March 30, 2015 at 7:29 PM

    Kelly, what a powerful discovery for your son to make and a candid post for you to share.

    As a children’s brain and technology researcher I’ve seen first-hand, and far too often,the powerful lure of Minecraft (and other games too). I see how otherwise, very well-adjusted children can become quickly “addicted” to Minecraft. It really is the game that never ends and this design feature makes it very difficult for some children to switch off.

    Children also easily enter the psychological state of “flow” when playing Minecraft and this is another reason that it is “addictive”. They literally become so immersed in what they’re crafting, that they can become oblivious to what’s going on around them.

    What a testament to the wonderful job you’ve obviously done with your children. It is a powerful self-discovery to recognise that your technology-use and habits have slipped from being healthy to harmful. There are many adults that are yet to make this profound discovery!

    You’ve obviously invested the time to teach your son healthy media habits, which most importantly involves screen-free time.

    It’s absolutely critical in the digital age, that we teach children how to form healthy media habits. Habits that will serve them for life, as our children will inherit a digital world. Your son sounds like he’s in a great place to navigate this digital terrain in ways that are healthy and helpful.

    Thanks also for mentioning my website too, Kelly,

  3. Kelly Pietrangeli on March 30, 2015 at 8:27 PM

    Thanks for your really informative comment Kristy. I know now what you’re referring to about this state of ‘flow’. My son would become so agitated if he had to stop for dinner and seem vacant afterwards.

    His school work has also suffered recently in the same couple of months that I allowed more Minecraft time. He sped through his homework instead of taking care and lost his passion for reading before bed.

    Today we visited a bookshop and he eagerly chose a stack of books by authors he used to love.

    He and his cousins played Monoply all afternoon yesterday and he’s begging to play it again this evening.

    I think I’ve got my son back!

  4. Joanna Holland on March 31, 2015 at 9:58 AM

    Hi Kelly

    I let my boys play computer games in the morning between 6.30 and 7.30 am. It means they are happy (and quiet) and I can sleep or get ready for the day. My daughter isn’t up early enough to get the treat!

    I do however control screen time after school, at the weekends and in the evenings. Thankfully they only resist briefly to being told to do something else.

    It works for us. The kids know it’s not a free for all and they HAVE to find other things to do. Any argument and they LOSE screen time.

    I’m lazy in the mornings about screen time but it suits me and the balance is I pay attention at other times. That it is good enough in my book!

    🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on March 31, 2015 at 10:38 AM

      Great example of allowing limited amounts of screen time so they see it as an earned privilege and not, as you put it so well, a free for all.

      Your set up also allows you that morning quiet time which I’m sure helps bring out your best version of you once you’re on mama duty. A great set-up Joanna. Thanks so much for sharing!

  5. Nicholette on March 31, 2015 at 9:59 PM

    Oh I’m definitely guilty of letting K play a game or watch a show so I can wrap things up with work or in the house, I do try and keep a firm balance but like all your posts this one struck a cord lovely.

    Thank you for sharing.

    I love how you say that we need to invest time and energy to help them form ideas early on. Thank you as always for your lovely inspiration.

    • Kelly - Project Me on April 1, 2015 at 10:55 PM

      You’re welcome Nicholette. Thank YOU for the lovely comment. You’re doing your best 🙂

  6. […] It’s great to organise trips, days out and social get togethers but don’t feel you have schedule their every move. Children need the time and space to transition from busy school routines to laid back livin’. It’s ok to feel a bit bored sometimes, they just have to find their own way out of it. (And that doesn’t have to mean endless hours glued to Minecraft.)  […]

  7. Pam on April 9, 2015 at 2:24 AM

    My kids don’t play Minecraft. They like to play games on the iPad, but they’re pretty good about sticking to time limits and entertaining themselves with activities that don’t involve screens. I suppose I can get lax about screen time when I’m super tired or sick, but overall I think we have a pretty healthy relationship with our devices 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on April 9, 2015 at 3:32 PM

      That’s wonderful Pam! Keep it up. I know your kiddoes are still young and I think it’s often when they become older and more independent that you pay less attention and get into your own routines. So stay vigilant 🙂

  8. Kimberly on April 9, 2015 at 3:05 PM

    I’ve worn that guilt hat before! Thanks so much for being brave enough to share this with us. 🙂

    • Kelly Pietrangeli on April 9, 2015 at 3:33 PM

      You’re welcome Kimberly! I was ashamed at first that ME of all people could have taken my eye off the ball like this when I was so damn anti-screens for SO many years! But it’s a story that needed to be told. x

  9. Rylan on December 29, 2015 at 10:00 AM

    As a 15 year old who recently quit Minecraft, I’d like to add that I personally quit because it was boring for me. I’d played all the gamemodes there were, and that was that, I was bored of the concept. I’d also like to say that this game taught me a lot, from basic spelling and grammar, to how to solve a problem without making a bigger one. My mother set time limits for the game, but she went slack on those because she had her own life. I wouldn’t say I was addicted to Minecraft, since it never changed my personality (an introverted anti socialist). I’d say I only played it because I’ve never had anything else to do, since my crack addicted brother kept selling my favorite Mario games to pay for his drugs, and Minecraft was the one thing he couldn’t really sell. Anyhow, just putting my two cents in here, I hope this helped someone in some way 😉

    • Rylan on December 29, 2015 at 10:01 AM

      Oh, and I was also a player of this game for 5 years.

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