As I write, a new rumor is spreading across the mommy blogosphere, and thousands of mothers are starting to panic. Minecraft has a sex mod. You may think Minecraft is a safe, creative, healthy activity for your children, parents everywhere are being told, but it’s not. Have a look at this piece by Amy Betters-Midtvedt on a parenting website:
Take a minute to Google “Minecraft + sex mod.” I’ll wait.
Did your brain explode? Because when I found out that this was a thing, not only did my brain explode, but my heart did as well. Unfortunately, it was my kid who filled me in.
I was going about my business when I suddenly found myself looking into the tearful eyes of one of my babies who was telling me that, not only was this kid playing Minecraft when she saw this, but she was also propositioned in this “creative mode” room by another player.
This child was crushed. She opened up, and told me about the things that appear in apps. She shared a lot about how she was feeling as a result of this experience that made me want to weep and weep.
The virtual world is so real to our kids. She felt like it had actually happened to her in real life. It could not be shrugged off. She actually wanted me to take away her phone, the portal to this hurt. There were many tears, half of them from me. All I could do was apologize for not protecting her better.
I sympathize with Betters-Midtvedt’s kid, but this is not how Minecraft works. She says her kid was using her smartphone to play Minecraft when it happened. Well guess what? There are no mods on Minecraft pocket edition. Minecraft has just rolled out a feature called “add-ons” which performs the same function mods do on a PC, but these don’t just pop up—you have to use a PC to download them and then connect the PC to your tablet or smartphone—and even then, you don’t encounter strangers when playing Minecraft unless you play on a server. Why, then, does Betters-Midtvedt write of a “sex mod”? In fact, she titled her piece Everything Changed the Day I Learned Minecraft Has a Sex Mod. What exactly is going on here?
I’ve been playing Minecraft almost daily for several years. I play it with my husband and I play it with my children. I have experience with mods, maps, texture packs, realms, servers, pocket edition on my iPad, you name it. My kids are avid players themselves. My husband plays using mods that allow him to create advanced metalworks. My kids use mods that allow them to build zoos, or become vampires. I prefer a good old-fashioned realm where I can build things to show off to my Minecraft-playing relatives. The point is, I know Minecraft. Let me take a moment to dig into the moving pieces here.
Based on what Betters-Midtvedt wrote in her article, it sounds like her daughter was playing on a server. By way of background, there are three basic modes in which Minecraft gaming takes place. The first is the single-player game, where you and you alone have access (you can let others on the same wifi join via LAN, but only when you’re playing). The second is realms, where you pay Mojang to have a world that you can play on with your friends or relatives. You select who to add, and they and they alone have access to the game. The third is servers, which are essentially massive multi-player online games (you technically could create a server for just you and your friends and relatives, but realms generally fills that role). On a server, you are generally playing with dozens if not hundreds of strangers. And there is a chat function (text only, not voice), which people do use.
There is a lot to be said for being careful when using Minecraft servers. Some servers are moderated, and you can find lists of family-friendly Minecraft servers online. Many, though, are essentially free-for-alls. It’s like throwing your kid into an internet chat room where everyone chatting is also collaboratively playing Minecraft. You do not know who these other players are, or how old they are. Now, to gain access to a server, you have to look it up online, get a code, and enter it into Minecraft on your device. Servers don’t just jump onto your smartphone, tablet, or computer, and they don’t just pop up. You have to go looking for them. But by all means, find out if your children are playing on Minecraft servers, and do some research to make sure the ones they are using are safe.
And while you’re at it, teach your child about internet safety. Let them know that while most people are kind, there are also bad people on the internet. Remind them that they can’t know who is actually behind a username, and that sometimes people lie about their identity. Explain to them that they should not to divulge personal information or their address online, and make sure they understand why. Let them ask questions. Look for pieces on internet safety written by professionals if your children ask questions you can’t answer. Remember that your job is to keep them safe, yes, but also to give them tools that will serve them in the future. You won’t always be there to protect them. Someday they will grow up.
It’s good that Betters-Midtvedt used her kid’s experience to encourage parents to stay in tune with what their children are playing and doing in the digital world. However, I now have people posting in concern on my Facebook wall, asking if I’ve heard of this new Minecraft “sex mod” and whether my kids are safe from it. And I have other moms posting in parenting groups on Facebook that I’m in asking whether they should pull the plug on their kids’ Minecraft. It is absolutely reprehensible that Betters-Midtvedt took this situation and turned it into what is becoming a major parental scare about a Minecraft “sex mod.”
Is there a Minecraft sex mod? I just did some googling, and the answer appears to be no. If there is a Minecraft sex mod, it’s hard to find. I found some foreign-language YouTube videos which had the term “sex mod” in their titles, but no link to download a mod. I found a supposed sex mod download that ended with a declaration of “April Fools!” I found a YouTube video that claimed to be of a Minecraft sex server, but the link provided appears to have expired. I found a YouTube video of two players pretending to have sex in Minecraft (bear in mind that Minecraft characters’ motion is limited to standing and “sneaking,” which amounts to a slight bend of the knees). The Minecraft sex mod appears to be a pure myth.But you know what? Even if there were a Minecraft sex mod that would not mean that it’s going to jump onto your child’s device, or pop up begging them to download it. The first time I tried installing a Minecraft mod on the computer my children use, it took me six hours. I’m seriously not kidding. Now yes, I’m not as technically literate as those who run Linux and code in their spare time. I use a Mac because it’s simple. But as soon as I actually figured out how to install the mod—and let Facebook know—I had other parents telling me that they were jealous, that their kids wanted to use Minecraft mods but they (the parents) couldn’t figure out how to get them. That is how complicated the process is. Mods do not just jump onto your computer, tablet, or iPhone. You have to find them online, download them, and copy them into a specific folder, not to mention installing Forge, which is required to run them.
What is a mod? Basically, a Minecraft mod changes the game slightly. There are mods that add rockets, mods that add robots you can program, mods that add bees you can farm, and mods that dinosaurs. The simplest mods merely add new blocks—there’s a mod that adds custom furniture you can use in building—while more complex mods add planets or dimensions or new gameplay. There’s even a Doctor Who mod that adds Daleks and a Tardis you can board and travel to Trenzalore or Gallifrey.
I was unable to find a Minecraft sex mod, but that does not mean every mod out there is necessarily good for your kid. For example, there is a Girlfriend mod. I despise this mod, because it plays into every sexist stereotype there is. It spawns in “girlfriend” characters you can interact with—remember, they’re just strings of code, it’s not other people playing them—and if you befriend one by giving her a rose, she’ll help you fight skeletons or creepers by throwing shoes at them. That’s right, shoes. It should be obvious why I don’t like this mod, but even this mod does not have sex, just sexism. And, again, you’re not going to get propositioned by a stranger while playing a mod. That’s only going to happen if you’re playing on a server.
Let me pause and sum this up here a bit. If your child is playing Minecraft on either a computer or a tablet or smartphone, and is playing a single-player game or on a realm with carefully vetted close friends or relatives, your child is safe—strangers will not have access to them, and they are not going to be exposed to any sexual content. Installing a mod or add-on on your child’s device is also safe—i.e., there are no strangers who are going to proposition your child—though you should be aware of what these mods are if you want to avoid things like the sexism in the Girlfriend mod. You should only be concerned about safety if your child is playing Minecraft with strangers on a server (which is not going to just pop up or happen accidentally), and there you should follow the same rules you would follow for any other kind of collaborative online gaming that includes a chat function. In other words, it’s not about Minecraft, it’s about online gaming.
There’s one other concern I would mention, though. I suspect that Betters-Midtvedt became unnerved when she googled “Minecraft” and “sex mod” and found YouTube videos with these words in their titles. Lots of kids watch Minecraft videos on YouTube. Essentially all of them, actually. Parents should not assume that all Minecraft YouTube videos are all wholesome. I was watching a tutorial on Youtube with my elementary aged daughter a year ago, trying to figure out how to use a specific Minecraft map, when the YouTuber made a rape joke. It was something along the lines of: “Hey, those berries look like rufies. I should grab some to use later, heh heh heh.” No really. There was creepy laughter. Even though it went straight over my daughter’s head, I turned the video off immediately and went searching for a different video to explain the concept I needed explained.
This is not to say that you should cut off your child’s access to Minecraft YouTube videos, though! These videos often stimulate my children’s imaginations and give them ideas of new things to build or do on Minecraft. Fortunately, the most popular Minecraft YouTube stars appear to know that they are being watched by large numbers of children, and the content on these channels tends to be appropriate. If you’re worried, you may want to have your children watch their Minecraft YouTube videos in the same room you’re in, so that you can listen in, or you may want to restrict their viewing to Minecraft Youtube channels that are considered family-friendly. (You can find plenty such lists online via google.)
Please share this article with anyone you’ve seen fanning the flames of the Minecraft “sex mod” panic. I don’t want to see children shut off from a game I love because of rank misinformation, and as a parent myself, I hate seeing parents subject to unnecessary fear. Let’s get some accurate information out there about what mods are, how Minecraft works, and what steps parents can and should actually be taking to keep their children safe while experiencing Minecraft.
If you’re one of these parents yourself—with Minecraft-crazed children but a lack of familiarity with the game yourself—I hope reading this post has helped. Accurate information is critical to casting out fear of the unknown or unfamiliar. May your children continue to enjoy Minecraft for many years to come!
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