The Ital Pizza Classics are hot out of the oven. The salad is ready, and the table for a quick and easy dinner is set. You’ve called the kids for the hundredth time to come for supper, and all you hear is crickets. You shout again and eventually stomp down the passageway to see them engrossed in (what feels like) their millionth hour of Fortnite. You lose your temper and the usual “Aw ma, I was just finishing” chaos ensues. Sound familiar?
Fortnite is a real-time, multiplayer online game in which players battle to the virtual death and your child is most likely playing it or wants to play it. According to Statista, the game had 350 million active players in May 2020. And with lockdown regulations tightening again worldwide, the numbers are likely to go up as more and more of our international peers are forced to stay at home.
The game is addictive for many reasons, such as the “near-miss” feature. “When your character is killed on Fortnite, you get to see the health bar of the person who killed you. Often you will see that your opponent was also close to dying, so the game feels like it was very close. The near misses are tantalizing, and you’re compelled to keep playing” says Dr David Anderson, PhD, head of the ADHD and Behaviour Disorders Centre at the Child Mind Institute in the USA.
The game (which is free to play) also allows friends to connect and play against or in teams with another. And, players are kept hooked with “rewards” such as hidden treasures, health potions or weapons from a “dead” opponent. The game is a case study in creating FOMO (the Fear Of Missing Out) which is particularly compelling to young children.
There are a couple of problems parents experience as we navigate the social consequences of playing a game like this. We don’t want to be spoilsports, and we do want to have our kids feel included BUT, how will we know when the game becomes problematic. Here are some Fortnite parenting tips from the TastyMoments team.
The Social Aspect:
Because the game is set in a virtual world, kids often disconnect from reality and therefore, appropriate behaviours. Parents often report that excessive swearing, bullying and other antisocial behaviours from their kids when playing the game. Experts recommend that parents keep a close eye on their child’s behaviour and to have a game plan as to how this will be addressed if it crops up. Some parents have the rule that if the child cannot behave according to positive, real-world social norms, the game will be taken away from the child. Be sure to have a frank and open conversation about bullying, language and remind your kids that the virtual world contains real people too.
The Addiction Issue:
This is good advice from Dr Anderson again. “We try to take a sense of the amount of free time that a child has, and what we want to know is that there’s balance.” He has a checklist of things that he calls “developmentally integral” to a child’s life, that parents should make sure kids aren’t missing out on. The list includes:
- Seeing friends and interacting with them in real life
- Participating in extracurricular activities, they’re excited about
- Keeping up with academic classes and doing homework
- Building positive relationships with family members
- Getting enough sleep
If you see your kids withdrawing from these activities, you may have a problem. Experts recommend giving children a healthy allotment of screen-time or keeping the game as a treat for weekends only. Another point to note is that the game itself doesn’t have a “pause” function. So asking your child to stop playing immediately may cause them some distress. Each game lasts 20 minutes, so it may be useful to negotiate an “end-time” with your kids in advance so that there are no tantrums later.
The Stranger-Danger Factor:
Cat-phishing is basically the practice of pretending to be someone you’re not online. Games like Fortnite can attract some nasty characters who may want to harm your children. A recent case in New Jersey in the USA profiled 24 men who were using the messaging apps of games like Fortnite to lure kids. Make sure your children only communicate with people they know and avoid chatting to strangers online. Again, what happens in the real world should apply online too. Simply, don’t talk to strangers!
Have you got a Fortnite obsessed person in your home? How have you coped with it? Tell us in the comments below.
Enjoy these TastyTips?
PS. Have one of your own? Let us know in the comment section below.
Like this article? Share it with your friends.