Did just reading of the title of this article prompt an exasperated eye roll and then a deep sigh? We can relate. But as with most things electronic, the question is always, “Is playing Fortnite (or any online game) harmful, or merely irritating and inconvenient.” Since Season 6 of the game launched just last week (September 27th) and it doesn’t appear that it’s going away anytime soon, here are 6 Things Parents Should Know About Fortnite.
Yes. Predators are using this game to target kids. In fact, just this week, 24 men were arrested after being caught in a sting operation that “targeted alleged predators accused of using online video games like Fortnite” to engage in conversations of a sexual nature and to attempt to lure teens to meet them.
What you should do: Unfortunately, we can’t really wrap our kids in bubble wrap or lock them in the attic until they’re 30. But what we can do is remind kids that the people they play online games with aren’t their friends and also point out that anyone can pretend to be whomever they want online.
Yes. Fortnite can be a tool for bullies. But so can House Party. And recess. Kids start the game by parachuting onto a map with 99 other people, they then spend the next 20-ish minutes battling until there is one winner. Players can team up, build structures, and acquire weapons during the battle. On the plus side, kids get to work as teams to get to the end. On the minus side, sometimes a kid gets singled out and targeted in the course of the game.
This is, of course, not exclusive to Fortnite. The popular video chat app, House Party, allows users to create “rooms” for separate video chats with their invited friends. You can probably see where this is going. Kids have now discovered that they can create secret rooms and exclude certain of their friends from their invite list.
What should you do: Listen, a bully is a bully. So, wherever the unkindness is happening, the steps for making sure your kid is okay are pretty much the same. First, determine whether this is an isolated incident or a pattern of behavior. Second, talk to your child about how they’re feeling. Third, have a good long conversation about what constitutes a good friend. Fourth, involve the other parents if you can and if you feel it is necessary. And finally, consider restricting your child’s access to these apps or redirecting them into something that will make them feel good about themselves.
Yes. Using the voice chat might be a bad idea. There are no filters in the game nor is there a way to block players from saying, or typing whatever they want to each other. So if you are a family that has zero tolerance for swearing, you might want to have your child play the game without the audio (though if they can read, they might still get exposed to some language that is a little too salty for your taste). Also remember that your child is playing with 99 other people not all of whom are kids. So again, if exposure to the way millennials talk to each other isn’t your jam, you might want to keep a close watch.
What should you do: Only allow your child to play solo. Voice and text chat aren’t features of this mode. But this means that your kid won’t be able to play as part of a team. If your kid uses this as a social outlet with friends, this might not be a good option for you. There is also a way to mute individual players and if things get really out of hand, players can report bad behavior. Or, ask your child to play with the volume up loud enough for you to hear what is being said. Then closely monitor and either shut it down or start a discussion about language if things get obscene.
No. Fortnite will not make your child more violent. Make no mistake, the point of Fortnite is kill or be killed. At the end of a game, there is only one winner. But the violence has been mostly described as cartoonish and bloodless. Players who are defeated simply disappear. This game is fast-paced and can get intense, but it isn’t gory. Additionally, multiple studies have tracked kids playing violent games and have shown that exposure to these games does not increase aggression in kids.
What you should do: Monitor play time and set limits. Watch for any changes in your child’s behavior or an inability to disengage from the game.
Yes. You need to talk to your kid about in-app purchases. While the app is free, in-app purchases can add up quickly. New Season 6 Battle Passes, Skins and Pets will be enticing to your kiddo especially if their friends have them. Additionally, the Save the World mode is still only available for purchase, though it has been reported that it will be offered free sometime this year. Purchases are made with V-bucks, the virtual currency of the game, but the V-bucks are purchased using a credit card.
What you should do: Talk to your kids about the limits you are putting on their purchases. But if they do buy something you don’t want them to have, there is a way to get a refund.
Yes. This game is a legit way for kids to socialize and connect with peers. For some kids, connecting in person is too intense or uncomfortable. For others, distance might make it difficult for them to hang out in person. In both cases, Fortnite, or games like it, give kids a way to socialize without actually having to be in the same room. Consider it a party line with cartoonish violence. Additionally, kids learn to work as a team and to communicate under pressure. They learn to how to respond to unfairness or bad sportsmanship and they get to feel like they are part of group that is working toward a common goal.
What you should do: Well, nothing other than what you’re already doing. Monitor your kid’s overall screen time. Watch for changes in behavior. Insist that they play where you can see and hear them. And encourage them to also have real life interaction with real live peers.