At Home with Tech

It’s time to maximize the potential of all your gadgets.

Tag: Minecraft

How Parents Can Take Control of Notifications on the Family iPad

If your children are starting to read iMessages on your iPad or iPhone that aren’t meant for them, it’s probably time to change the settings in your device. Here’s how…

So, my almost eight-year-old is playing Minecraft on my iPad in the living room, and he turns to me and says, “Mommy is writing me a message!”


I’m a little alarmed, because even though my wife wasn’t at home, she never uses electronic communications with our son and certainly not using something like Minecraft.
(You can probably guess that I’ve been thinking a lot lately about who he will be interacting with when he eventually engages in multiplayer video games online.)

I jump over to take a look.


It’s a simple text message banner that popped up at the top of the iPad screen from my wife to me about camp plans for our second grader this summer.

It has absolutely nothing to do with the Minecraft platform.

The Early Taste of a Texting Stream
My wife referenced our son’s name in the text, which is why he mistakenly thought it was written to him.

Yes, he can read now, but he got confused by the style of my wife’s texting banter with me.
(Plus, it’s probably one of the first texts that he’s encountered.)

So, this wasn’t really a problem other than an iMessage to my iPhone also showing up on my linked iPad that my son happened to be using.

Ironically that feature is supposed to be a nice iOS bonus provided by Apple.
But it was clearly time to turn the option off on my iPad.

Our son doesn’t need to be privy to the Lester family texting stream…
(Well, at least… not yet!)

How to Turn Off Pop-Up Text Banners
Using iOS 11.3 –

  • Tap the ‘Settings’ gear icon
  • Tap ‘Notifications’
  • Tap ‘Show Previews’
    You’ll probably find that it’s defaulted to ‘Always’
  • Tap and change to ‘Never’

But that’s not all you have to do…

There is No Global ‘Off’ Switch
I decided to visit the Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal to gather a little more advice.

An Apple Genius told me that you also have to individually turn off each app from proactively trying to send you banner notifications on your device.
(He mentioned that detail to me several times. I imagine I’m not the only one who might be confused by the extra step.)

To ‘completely’ halt your iMessage banners…
While in Notifications, go down your list of apps until you find ‘Messages.’

  • Tap ‘Messages’
  • In ‘Allow Notifications,’ slide the little circle to the ‘off’ position

And that will finally get the job done!

Now, you’ve got to repeat this step for your other apps…

There are a few other settings to consider if you want to be a little less draconian about muffling your iPad or iPhone, but I was satisfied with hobbling my iPad to keep my young Padawan away from the constant buzz of the Net. My iPhone was providing that Borg-like public service to me quite sufficiently, thank you very much.
(I know I’m mixing my science fiction metaphors.)

But then I began to think about my own experience with my iPhone’s many chatty apps…

Less is More
After considering the issue for a moment, I decided that I was, in fact, being interrupted by way too many banners from apps wanting to share ‘critical’ news.

Perhaps I should take a few minutes to review all of them and silence the ones I didn’t want to hear from all of the time.

And that’s exactly what I did!

Of course, I kept ‘Messages’ fully activated, but I did turn off ‘Repeat Alerts’ from ‘Once’ to ‘Never.’
(I usually get it the first time.)

You Can’t Hide Your Child from the Connected World Forever
Now, I find that my iPhone is a little less ‘disruptive.’

My iPad shares nothing from the outside world with my son.

And I fully acknowledge that this is only the beginning.
It’s a long journey ahead for me and my boy.
(I know that as a parent, I can’t keep the ‘off switch’ activated forever…)

My son has asked for multiplayer mode in Minecraft for his 8th birthday… so he can play remotely with his friends.

To be continued…

Don’t Ask My Mommy. Ask Google.

How are you supposed to survive in a computerized world? If you’re a seven year old, ask a computer… of course! If this gives you a little agita as an adult human being in the real world, you might want to read on…

So, my wife and I were visiting another family’s house to pick up our seven-year-old son from his play date the other day. The adults were chatting a bit before the handover as the kids wrapped up their activity, which happened to be playing Minecraft, a popular videogame where you create your own worlds.

Then I noticed the kids ran into some kind of challenge in the game, and this is what I overheard…

Human child #1:
“How do you build the portal to the End in Minecraft?”

Human child #2:
“I don’t think my mommy knows how to do that…”

Human child #1:
“Don’t ask my mommy. Ask Google Home. Maybe… Siri.”
(They didn’t have an Alexa in this particular home. But I don’t want to leave Amazon out of the conversation.)

A.I. Always has an Answer
All right. Let’s pause right there to discuss the significance of this interchange. A couple of seven-year old-boys have decided to bypass their parents (moms) and go right to today’s A.I. to solve their problem.

Hey, it’s not like I don’t Google questions all of the time at my computer, but I was a little shocked at how flesh and blood parents were suddenly and completely eliminated from the equation.

Now granted, in this particular situation, these adults wouldn’t have known how to get to the ‘End.’ So, you’ve got to give the kids some points for their instincts.
(That night, after Googling ‘the End,’ I learned that it’s the third and final dimension in Minecraft.)

Okay… the kids were trying to figure out a shortcut to the end of the game.
(Is that cheating? Or is it simply being innovative… like beating the Kobayashi Maru test?)


Google Home couldn’t articulate a useful answer, but the young hackers-in-training got some traction with Siri on the resident iPad. Siri opened up a wikiHow page for them, which held some key details.

Apparently, getting to the End requires you first to go to the Nether.
(I have no idea what I’m talking about.)

The Lesson of the Journey
Guess what… their little online research project worked! The wikiHow page contained instructions on how to build a portal to the Nether, which the kids promptly executed.

I heard… “OMG… we’re going to the End! This is so great!!”

For the record, their progress halted at the Nether. The map to the End remained out of reach. But my son was super excited by the prospect that they were moving in the right direction.
(He really loves exploring this vast digital world. He also enjoys reading Minecraft adventures in physical books and looking through how-to-build Minecraft books.)

Discounted Daddy
To be honest, I felt a little schadenfreude to observe their quest for the End not end in total success.

Because as a parent of a seven year old, I thought Daddy was still perceived as all knowing. Did you notice that neither boy even mentioned his father during the tech query?

No… I didn’t have the answer. And I don’t think the other daddy would have had it either… without Googling a bit.
(That said, he’s very much at home with his tech.)

And no… this is not a gender thing about why the kids bypassed their daddies.
It’s a species thing about why the human adults were circumvented to quickly get to preferred artificial intelligence.

And that seven year olds already expects today’s A.I. to be able to correctly answer any question.

What’s the Truth?
Okay, Daddy…
I suddenly realize this is going to require some immediate focus as a parent.

Because even though yes… there’s an answer to any question you pose to a search engine, there’s actually a thousand answers, if not more.

As an adult, it’s your job to figure out the ‘truth’ on any number of topics.
(And that’s harder today than ever.)

And that’s going to remain an ongoing challenge for every human for the foreseeable future.

For an elementary school-aged child who can now simply project a question into a room, and an A.I. enabled speaker immediately responds, that’s a resource that really needs some adult-level perspective.

Otherwise we won’t have to wait until advanced artificial intelligence or the singularity arrives for humans to hand over all of the keys to knowledge and independent understanding.

I’ve got some work to do.

Daddy (human) is on it.

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