Propaganda in Minecraft. How Russians are trying to brainwash our children through games and social media
For children, the techniques of Russian propaganda are not as obvious as for adults, and it is difficult for children not to be influenced by them. They can’t filter information on their own, and that’s what the Russians use. In social media, cartoons, games – the Russian trace is everywhere. For example, in the popular Minecraft game, players from Russia reenacted the battle for an occupied Ukrainian city. And the cartoon “Masha and the Bear” was even translated into Ukrainian to increase views among our children. Psychologist Dmytro Vakulenko shared his advice for parents on how to protect children from enemy inputs with Dovidka.info.
What are the main narratives that Russia is promoting on social media for children and teenagers?
The main theses are that Russia is saving Ukrainians, that this is not a war, but a special military operation, that Ukrainians are younger brothers of Russians, that Russia is an older brother whom Ukrainians should obey. Common values, mentality, history, culture. This is what is being imposed by the Russians. And also narratives that the Ukrainian government are bad men who exploit their people, and that Ukraine will never win this war.
Russia’s resources are aimed at forming the loyalty of our youth, children, and teenagers. And also to create uncertainty, that “not everything is so clear” in this war. To prevent support for the anti-Ukrainian position. To prevent support for the anti-Ukrainian position.
Where do Russians hide their propaganda and target it specifically at children and teenagers?
The obvious platforms include social media and messengers Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Telegram, and Discord. Discord is a messenger that is mostly used by children and young people because it is focused on the gaming community, on online games. Therefore, there are fewer adults there, and much more children and young people. So, I recommend paying more attention to this.
Other less obvious platforms are Youtube and Twitch. Twitch is a video platform where bloggers, especially gamers, often broadcast online. And, in fact, online games are also a place where certain information and psychological campaigns of the Russian Federation are often promoted.
For example, there is a very famous game called Minecraft. It has an online service feature. The point is that many children can play at the same location at the same time and communicate with each other. And Russia is using its finances to organise events there, where it demonstrates some historical moments, for example, the occupation of Ukrainian territories. And there, the Russians present it as a liberation process. And they create the appropriate atmosphere online. Children participate in this game, interact according to the rules of this game. This way, they are being led to believe that Ukraine is not under occupation, but a liberation process, and that the Russian Federation did everything right there and liberated Ukrainians from Nazi rule.
There is also a famous game about a “good” KGB officer who saves the world. This game was also created by Russians. And they promoted this game all over the world. This means that their information and psychological influence is aimed not only at Ukrainian children, but at children from all over the world.
As for cartoons, there is a striking example – “Masha and the Bear”. By the way, please note that this is a cartoon that they distribute all over the world and even translate it into Ukrainian to make it even less resistant. Some may say that it is a beautiful cartoon, but in fact it is a cartoon that imposes on children a culture and values that are not typical for Ukraine, but are inherent to our eastern neighbours. What is it about? It’s about a girl who does only what she wants and does it the way she wants. Her message to adults is that only she is right, and just as she says, so it will be, and she will never face the consequences of her wrong behaviour. That is, if she did something wrong, everything went wrong, the bear is the unfortunate one in this situation. I think this is very similar to the behaviour of our eastern neighbour.
It sounds very scary, because it seems that this propaganda is everywhere. What should parents do to protect their children from this?
It’s very scary: in fact, it is. If we want to protect our children, we have to create the conditions in which they will develop. And not rely on the fact that somehow they will grow up and everything will be fine. Here I would equate the story of information hygiene and, in general, how to behave online, how to filter content. All this should not be on the child’s shoulders alone. They are not able to think critically on their own to filter it all out. Propaganda is prepared by adults and smart people who are experts in their field. Russians are good at it.
I would compare it to the rules for using electricity. A child is not supposed to be able to use electrical appliances on their own, from birth. Parents explain the safety rules, talk about the risks of using electricity, explain how to use it, tell them what not to do. These are basic things. The same should apply to the information space, and the same should apply to nutrition. Why do I compare it to food? Because, depending on what we eat, we feel that way. It’s the same with information: depending on what information we consume, that’s how we think, and depending on how we think, that’s how we act. You need to work with your child, communicate, and talk about it. We need to teach, explain, demonstrate cause and effect, and study history together.
But this should not be done when the child is already grown up, but from an early age. As soon as the child gets access to the web and manages it independently. Then it’s time.
And in order to explain this qualitatively, not just by prohibitions, we need to understand it well ourselves, to research this issue. To unfold all the narratives that I have described and to have meaningful and thorough answers to why this is wrong.