How can I play Minecraft safely with my 9-year old nephew in 2021?
June 9, 2021 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I first learned about Minecraft on Metafilter, in the early days. I've played it on and off over the years, and now my 9 year old nephew would like to play with me. I've only ever played the Java version, he's only ever played Bedrock on a Switch and on phones.

I set up ZeroTier so we can have a virtual private LAN, so that we could do multiplayer without having to set up a server. It sort of worked, but was too finicky. Plus, I'd like something more persistent.

1) Should we play Java or Bedrock minecraft? I would like him to be able to play from the Switch if he wants.
2) I've set up Bukkit before - how do plugins and mods work in Bedrock? It looks like they can buy game mods and skins... how do I load those on my server?
3) What's a good hosting solution? I've run a Minecraft server for some friends for years, but I'd kind of like something lower effort. I'd like to set up a server for him and his friends to play on with backups, audit logs (in case someone has too much fun with TNT), and
4) I set him up as a child in my Microsoft account. I like the parental controls, but there's only one switch for "can play online". I'd like him to only play on servers I explicitly allow. Is there a way to do that?
posted by heathkit to Computers & Internet (3 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
1) No Java Edition for Switch or the phones, so you have to use Bedrock. You can stuff cross-play into a Java server with a plugin, if you want to run your own server, but see #3.

2) Bedrock is closer to the resource packs model. Microsoft has a defined boundary between their code and community code. Mods are nowhere near as extensive. You can download packs from the internet, but it's mostly textures, skins and shaders. There aren't many behavior changing mods in my experience.

3) Bedrock hosting AND you want to play with a Switch? You're looking at $8 / month for a 10 player server, or $4 for just the two of you. Now, there are ways to self-host Bedrock servers, or pay for someone else to host. However, the Switch cannot join arbitrary servers! (You can work around this with a custom DNS server, but do you want to deal with that?)

4) On Bedrock you can only play with Xbox friends or public servers. The Switch further locks down the "public servers" bit to a handful of approved servers. They could probably be blocked via router parental controls.
Adding Xbox friends can be limited by the parent account.

Note that some of these are Switch restrictions. Tablet/phone Minecraft can join arbitrary servers, so locking it down is hard/impossible.
posted by Anonymous Function at 1:11 PM on June 9 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: I forgot about the server restrictions on Switch. Apparently, it's easy to work around with a custom DNS
posted by heathkit at 6:18 PM on June 9

Realms plus is meant for this. You will need a device that can play the Bedrock edition (Xbox, PC, iPad or iPhone). You pay about $8 per month and they host a “realm” aka server for you. You can swap different Minecraft worlds in and out of the server but only one is accessible at a time.

All players need an Xbox live account with gamer tag, aka Microsoft account, a pain to setup but once done, you can find your nephew by gamertag. There’s no ip addresses or networking required, all id and discovery are handled in the Minecraft app using the Xbox gamer tags. Realms can be invitation only so restricted to just you nephew and friends.

Privacy settings for Xbox live aka Microsoft accounts are pretty granular and can be tricky. A fully locked down account will not work for the realm as your nephew will not be able to see and join the realm. It’s trial and error to find the few options that must be turned on to allow joining the realm without opening up the account to everyone else on the internet. I have a short list of what settings seem to work and can send if you me-mail me. I would advise caution in hooking up the 9-year old to any online service that could provide access to unknown people on the internet, and you’ll need to enlist parent or guardian to help with the setup and privacy settings.

Now to the Switch. A word of caution the switch version of Minecraft is often very buggy and sometimes just impossible to work with online realms play. If possible have a backup device (we use iPad) with Minecraft logged into the same Xbox live account as a fall back. To do any online play the switch must be setup and subscribed to Nintendo Online. You will use the Xbox live accounts to play online Minecraft, the Nintendo Online is just a tax that Nintendo levies to allow internet play on the console.

If you get that setup and working, you’ll need a separate device so you can talk to your nephew. There’s no voice chat on the switch. A phone with a phone call, zoom, or face time usually works.

The account that is the realm owner gets “OP” commands, can do things like teleport players, turn combat on or off, etc.

I cannot speak to mods or purchased content as we never explored those options.
posted by sol at 6:09 AM on June 10

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