Fortnite Frenzy: What You Need to Know

If you’ve spent any amount of time with a young person recently, you’ve most likely heard the name of one of the most popular video games currently, “Fortnite.”  This massively popular video game was released less than two years ago and has spread like wildfire. Whether the game is providing your family with some light-hearted fun and competition, or providing a source of stress and tension, getting a well-informed strategy on how to navigate its impact is key.Fortnite Info For Parents 1

What is it about this game that has kids and teens endlessly engaged? The game incorporates elements of “last man standing” strategy, similar to the popular movie series “Hunger Games,” mixed with “Call of Duty” type action, for an all-encompassing, full-senses experience. Young gamers also find it appealing as the game allows them to stay engaged in a chat with their friends during hours of gameplay. Matches tend to be quick and therefore offer players multiple chances to get in on the action and make multiple attempts at winning in a short amount of time. The appeal keeps young people locked in for hours. The fun and entertainment that this game offers as well as its widespread popularity can easily have parents overlooking some of the games’ potential pitfalls.

In addition to the visual experience, teamwork and competitive elements, this game was designed to be played on multiple platforms. This means players have unlimited access to the game at all times – at home on a video game console, whenever they access to their smartphone and even on a laptop. All for free! The online chat feature allows players to engage with total strangers or strategize with their friends for a more social experience.

One key characteristic of the “Fortnite phenomenon” is that it seems to appeal to a wide audience. Player ages range from teens all the way into adulthood according to statistics gathered by Statista. This may leave parents wondering, is this game age-appropriate for my child? The Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rates the game as “TEEN.” This rating means, “content is generally suitable for ages 13 and up. May contain violence, suggestive themes, crude humor, minimal blood, simulated gambling and/or infrequent use of strong language.” However, it is important to consider that this rating only takes into account the game content itself and not the additional features of chat and online gameplay that may expose the player to other content, language, etc.

As a parent, it can be difficult to decide when and if you should be allowing your child to get in on the action of some of the most popular video games and online activities. Fighting the current of what’s culturally popular can cause real stress between you and your child. Here’s what you may want to consider before deciding if Fortnite is right for your home:

Watch Bree discover Fortnite with her (almost) 9 year old. 

Positive Features:

  • Creates teamwork
  • Provides an outlet for fun and healthy competition
  • Cartoon-like images are substitutes for more gory images found in other popular video games
  • Free and accessible almost anywhere
  • A hobby that can be used to bond with parents and friends

Potential Pitfalls:  

  • Online features allow the game to be played with strangers
  • Chat feature may expose players to unsolicited profanity or undesirable content
  • Violence and suggestive themes
  • It’s free and accessible almost anywhere – monitoring screen time could be a challenge
  • Game add-ons come at an additional cost and can add up quickly

Friends of Fortnite: Clash of Clans and Apex

Fortnite is not the only game capturing the time and attention of young people. Quickly rising in popularity is Apex and Clash of Clans. Here is a quick look at key features that you need to know before allowing your child to add these to their gaming repertoire:

Clash of Clans

  • Free but does allow for in-game purchases (“to build an army”, “fortify a village”)
  • Appeals to a younger audience (rated for ages 9 and up according to kids, actual game rating is 13+ according to Common Sense Media)
  • Data not needed to play
  • The open chat feature is available (consider who is in your child’s “clan” to ensure they are not chatting with strangers)

Apex

  • 25 million players the first week it launched (CNBC.com)
  • Appeals to an older audience (rated T for teen according to EA games)
  • Free with the exception of in-game purchases
  • Open Chat
  • More realistic battle graphics compared to cartoon-like graphics of Fortnite and Clash of Clans

To the Parents of the Young Gamer

Fortnite Info For Parents 3There are a wide variety of perspectives and opinions on how and when to allow kids to start playing video games. Some parents try to avoid at all costs and other parents jump right in and join their child in participating in the child’s new favorite gaming hobby. As a parent of a three and half-year-old, I already feel the strain of monitoring my child’s screen time. My three year old asks to see my smartphone on a regular basis. Technology is fully ingrained into her development whether I’m ready or not. If your 7,8 or 9-year-old is already expressing interest in the world of gaming, here are some things to consider in preparing yourself, your child and your home:

Consider your child’s individual educational needs. Is your child naturally a good student? Will video games be a distraction from homework or will they be able to manage both?

Evaluate your child’s social and verbal skill set. Is it well developed for their age? How will playing video games impact their continued development?

Evaluate game content. Not all video games are created equal. Stay informed on age ratings for each game that your child asks to play. Even if the age rating fits your child, familiarize yourself with game content before allowing the game to be played. Commonsensemedia.org

Establish boundaries. Use this new activity in your child’s life as an opportunity to teach guidelines that lead to a healthy relationship with gaming. Set time limits, consider video game free days and encourage physical activity and social interaction in your child’s weekly schedule.

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Video Game Addiction

The question of addiction may arise when evaluating these popular, time-consuming video games. Can Fortnite become addictive? While the game does incorporate hard to resist elements such as fun challenges, creative outfits, weapon changes, social interaction and competition, a balanced approach to gameplay may help avoid any potential cause for concern.

In a recent study on technology addiction, Common Sense Media states that, “embracing a balanced approach to media and technology, and supporting adult role modeling, is recommended to prevent problematic media use.” By creating an open dialogue with your child or teen, setting up parental controls and incorporating a strategy for screen time, you can protect against the potential for addiction.

 

Practical tips for parents:

  1. Take advantage of the quick match lengths by turning them into stopping points
  2. Decided, with your child, on a certain number of matches per day
  3. Turn off the voice chat feature (Click on Audio Tab>Voice Chat> Turn arrow to “Off”)
  4. If you do allow online chat, monitor online chat conversations (Who is your child chatting with? What are they chatting about?)
  5. Meet people over facetime if they have started a gaming relationship with them so you know they are who they say they are.
  6. If a child is playing the game with an iPhone, impose usage limits (using the new iOS12 “screen time” feature) to monitor how much time is spent on gameplay.

Now What?

Possible Action Steps

  1. Check out Common Sense Media’s “6 Things Parents Should Know about Fortnite” video
  2. Engage in a conversation with your child about their interest in the popular game. What do they like about it? What keeps them engaged?
  3. Decide if Fortnite is right for your child and develop a strategy for screen time. When and where will this game be played?
  4. Set up parental controls on all devices that give access to unfiltered content

 

Helpful Resources:

Common Sense Media

Protect Young Eyes

 

By Vivien Reed Content Director 6

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