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Is Too Much Minecraft Harmful to Kids With ADHD?

The risks of too much Minecraft for children with ADHD and how to set limits.

Key points

  • Minecraft can be used as a learning tool for kids with ADHD, but playing the game too often can prevent children from developing other interests.
  • There are strategies parents can use to get the most out of Minecraft, set limits on playing time, and encourage more diverse activities. 

It has been almost a year of COVID-19 dominating our lives. During this year, screen time suddenly became acceptable and safer than the alternatives. But for millions of children, extra screen time did not go back to normal at the beginning of the school year. Kids whose schools remain closed, who are in hybrid models, or whose parents are opting to keep them home are still spending a lot of time on their screens for schoolwork and play. And if you have a child between the ages of 6 and 12, there’s a good chance that they’ve become experts at playing Minecraft.

This expertise is often more pronounced in kids with learning issues or ADHD because Minecraft is a game that offers what they rarely experience in academics: Mistakes are readily corrected, the pace of play is generally not a concern, and it engenders sustained attention and persistence.

Rather than beat yourself up over your child's Minecraft play, view it as an opportunity for building cognitive, executive functioning, and social-emotional skills. If during the summer, you insisted that your child go outside, get some exercise, jump in the water occasionally, and spend quality time with their family, you probably did the best you could do given the circumstances. If you want to know whether they really played too much Minecraft and whether it was harmful to them, keep reading.

Minecraft Can Teach Kids a Variety of Skills

What is too much Minecraft? If your child with ADHD or learning issues loves to play Minecraft, they’re just like a lot of other kids. But children with ADHD sometimes get too focused on preferred activities, and Minecraft (along with some other video games) can be one of those interests. Games such as Minecraft that have no beginning or end are not easy to walk away from, and, as a result, some kids with ADHD may show an obsessive interest in them, spending too much of their time playing or thinking about the game.

 By Mint_Images/Shutterstock
Minecraft can serve as a source to learn new information about several topics when used in moderation.
Source: By Mint_Images/Shutterstock

Parents may wonder if so much Minecraft is good for kids with ADHD. Probably not, but it’s not all bad, either. Minecraft allows kids to practice a variety of executive functioning skills such as planning, flexibility, and organization and promotes creativity, collaboration, digital literacy, and other 21st-century skills. Kids learn about history, math, physics, and geology as a result of playing Minecraft, and it can spur interest in architecture, art, electronics, and construction.

Too Much Minecraft Limits Interest in Other Activities

Minecraft can be harmful to kids with ADHD if it is all they do, however. If your child insists on spending all their free time playing Minecraft, you will need to find an effective way to set limits and encourage other interests. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll also need to encourage your child to engage in activities such as playing outside, exercising, and hanging out with friends.

If you want to let them play with technology, try to parlay their love of Minecraft into learning coding skills, creating Minecraft videos, trying out some new games, or playing with LEGOs. Expanding the array of interests of children with ADHD helps them to sustain their attention across settings.

If your child seemingly can only think about Minecraft (or another favorite video game), you might need to take more definitive action through limit setting. These simple strategies can help:

  1. Put school first. Allow Minecraft play only after all schoolwork is successfully completed. If your child is doing distance learning, find tools to disable Minecraft while they are in school.
  2. Make Minecraft play into social time. Insist that time on Minecraft be done in conjunction with friends from school or the neighborhood. Many of their friends are likely to also be Minecraft players and given the difficulties in arranging regular playdates during COVID-19, Minecraft is a safe and potentially educational activity.
  3. Talk about their Minecraft goals before playing. Engage in a discussion that prompts your child to use skills such as planning, metacognition, and sustained attention in Minecraft play. One reason many educators use Minecraft as a tool for learning is that it requires the use of executive functioning and academic skills.
  4. Expand their interests beyond Minecraft. Insist that they try other sandbox games, consider creating “let's play” videos, or have them teach you or their younger siblings how to play Minecraft. Better yet, use Minecraft as a tool to learn about architecture, history, or science.

Too much of any technology or interest may be mind-numbing in that it prevents children from learning about the rest of their world. It can be difficult to set limits if a child with ADHD or learning issues is happiest, most focused, and least oppositional while engaged with electronics. This task is even more difficult when Minecraft play is safer than other activities. Nonetheless, it’s a good long-term strategy to avoid too much Minecraft.

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