Here are a few key concepts and terms that are worth knowing before you join a public Minecraft server:
Minecraft Servers vs. Minecraft worlds: Usually, a single public Minecraft server has several Minecraft worlds that you can jump between. For example, there’s often a main survival world, another creative-mode world, and possibly a third world for Minecraft mini-games. Usually there’s a central hub or lobby, with warp points that let you teleport between the different Minecraft worlds.
PvP and PvE: PvP stands for “Minecraft player vs. Minecraft player”, while PvE stands for “Minecraft player vs. environment”. Most public Minecraft servers — especially family-friendly ones — are PvE; that is, you battle monsters, not Minecraft players. However, some Minecraft servers have special PvP arenas where you can fight other Minecraft players. Typically, if you die in a PvP arena, you don’t lose all your stuff, as you would in a regular survival Minecraft world. It’s just for fun.
Spawn: Usually your Minecraft player will spawn at a set point in the Minecraft world, usually referred to simply as “spawn”. Typically this is in, or near, a central town or city, or in some sort of lobby area. You can usually type the command /spawn to return to your spawn point on every Minecraft server.
Rules: Nearly all Minecraft servers have rules as to what you can and cannot do, and — as you’d imagine — family-friendly Minecraft servers tend to have a big list of strict rules. Make sure you read all the rules thoroughly. When you first join some Minecraft servers, they actually force you to walk past lots of signs with the rules on! If you don’t follow the rules, you can be banned temporarily or even permanently from the Minecraft server.
Griefing and grief protection: A big potential problem on public Minecraft servers is griefing; that is, demolishing other Minecraft players’ buildings or stealing their stuff. Many — but not all — Minecraft servers use various plugins to stop griefing. Typically these plugins let you lock your chests, doors and furnaces, and you can also claim a patch of land as your own — this means that nobody else can create or break blocks within your Minecraft claim. In addition, griefing is always forbidden in the Minecraft server rules; griefers are warned and then banned, and most Minecraft server admins can “roll back” your building to the state it was in before it was griefed.
Text chat: Minecraft has built-in text chat (the ‘T’ key), which is the default way that your kid will communicate with other Minecraft players. Chat can be public or private (that is, one-to-one). Obviously your kid will need some reading ability to participate in chat, although you can help them if you’re playing Minecraft online too. Most family-friendly Minecraft servers employ automatic filtering to prevent swearing in text chat. As with all online chat, make sure you remind your kid never to give out personal details when chatting.
Voice chat: Some Minecraft servers link up with voice chat servers such as Mumble, TeamSpeak or Ventrilo to enable Minecraft players to speak with each other while playing. If you allow your kid to use voice chat then obviously you want to be careful about who they’re talking to, and what they’re talking about!
Minecraft Server commands: To get the most out of online playing, you’ll need to give various commands to the Minecraft server as you play. You give a command by pressing the / (slash) key, followed by the command name and, sometimes, some extra text. For example, /sethome typically sets your home point to where you’re currently standing, while /home teleports you to your home point. The commands vary from Minecraft server to Minecraft server, but you’ll soon get the hang of them.
Using mods: If you’ve added mods to your Minecraft client, be careful when connecting to Minecraft servers, since most Minecraft servers ban at least some mods — particularly those that let you cheat, of course. Usually, mods such as OptiFine — which simply makes your Minecraft game run more smoothly — are OK.