BY LIZ HAYMAN
It will come as no surprise that games like Fortnite are here to stay. This game, as well as others, are extremely popular and are a major part of what it means to be a kid today. Despite having a Common Sense Media rating for ages 13 and up, we know that kids of many ages are playing this game. Every family has to make their own decisions about what is right for them in terms of how and when their kids play these types of games. Many parents find themselves in a dilemma with Fortnite because they don’t want their children to feel left out of what is such a cultural norm for kids right now, but also feel as though they may want to limit or prohibit use of this game. I’ve included an article at the end with one parent’s process of decision-making around this. Here are some of my thoughts and ideas about how parents can approach this topic with their children.
Healthy Boundaries and Limits
Just like with the use of any technology, every family has to decide what the boundaries, expectations, and norms are for its use with their children. Games like Fortnite are highly engrossing and stimulating for kids, making it possible for them to be absorbed and entertained by it for long periods of time. This makes setting boundaries and limits absolutely necessary. It is so much easier to set boundaries on the front end rather than trying to put them in place once bad habits and patterns of excessive use have already been established. Talk with your children about when and how long they are allowed to play certain games and set screen-free times. Some families have a rule that the WiFi gets turned off at a certain time or have rules for weekday use. There are many options with this – feel free to reach out to me if you need help coming up with ideas on how to set these boundaries.
Reality versus Fantasy
Depending on many factors such as a child's age and development, the lines between fantasy and reality can become blurred for some children. Fortnite depicts gun violence, but not with the level of gore of other games intended for older children. For some kids, this could portray the idea that gun violence in real life is cartoon-like and inconsequential. The game also features a component of gloating through funny dances when you win the game. Make sure to have conversations with your kids about what might be happening in the game versus what is realistic and what is appropriate behavior in real life and that these two things are likely different.
Be mindful of the good and bad aspects of social media like quality
Part of what kids love about Fortnite is the social component. They can play with their friends and also chat with them while playing. This can be a fun way of connecting if face to face interaction is not available. With this chat feature, there is the possibility of kids’ exposure to communication with strangers in an unmonitored and unmoderated way. This can be a potential safety issue with kids and something to be aware of in terms of what information your children are sharing while playing and with whom.
Remember that these games are designed to be addictive
There is a great deal of research out now about the high levels of smart phone/technology addiction. I imagine the majority of adults struggle with this on some level. As adults, we are generally intellectually aware of the issues that come as a result of being on our phones/screens/technology too much, and we still often have a hard time keeping this under control. Imagine how much more difficult this is for a child without the help and guidance of adults around them. Fortnite is designed to keep you playing and to keep you wanting more. I encourage you to find ways to help your child find balance and remember that this is only one small part of life that is fun and engaging. It is our job as the adults supporting these kids to ensure that they develop into balanced learners and people and that they have the ability to connect on many different levels.
Here are some other articles to explore on this topic:
As always, feel free to reach out to me to talk further about any of this.