Coming as really no surprise to any parent of a teenager, the World Health Organization recently listed gaming addiction as a mental health condition. And perhaps no other game is more at issue in homes around the country
than Fortnite. With 40 million users worldwide, it’s taken the world of video gaming by storm.
What is Fortnite anyway and is it violent?
It’s basically a big brawl like paintball but online. One hundred players leap out of a plane onto a small island and then fight each other until only one is left. Gamers get to choose fun “skins” or avatars who can some really humorous dance moves. The players battle one another with various weapons of destruction like cross bows and grenade launchers. They can earn additional battle resources that enable them to build structures for protection. As the match goes on, the land is continually reducing so fighters are forced closer and closer together. Last player standing wins. And with each win comes points so players can keep a running score.
When does something that sounds pretty fun become a problem?
According to most researchers and child therapists, video gaming becomes an issue when you start to see these three characteristics:
Impaired Control When Gaming: Is your child trying to avoid going to sleep out of a fear of “missing out”?
Prioritizing Gaming Over Other Interests: Has your child stopped doing the sports she loves in favor of gaming?
Escalation of Gaming Over Other Interests: Is your child putting his gaming “friends” before his real friends?
How can I limit how much my child plays?
There are parental controls on Xbox or PlayStation where you can limit the length of gaming sessions, or even ban them entirely. A typical battle on Fortnite, however, can last about 20 minutes. If you demand your child stop midgame, they’ll leave their team in the middle of a game and lose any points they’ve earned during that battle. And that is going to cause a lot of resentment.
Experts advise parents try a few other ways before taking the scorched
earth approach: Ask your teen about the game, how it’s played, what it means to him. And
then listen. Sit in a neutral place like the kitchen table and discuss ways to limit the game. Decide how long your child can play per day, per week, and figure out ways to work out the “Stopping in Midgame Battle” you want to avoid.
Keep your eyes open to any dangerous activities. While Fortnite does not allow for private messages, there are some other games where gamers may reach out to your child. Make sure your child knows the family rules: do not ever give out any personal information on the internet EVER.
Set up time to go outside. Remember the good ‘ol days when kids rode bikes and built forts in the woods? We can go back to that, even if it’s only a little bit and balanced with some videogames. But we can do it.
Remember, the teen brain is still growing and developing. And the last part of the brain to develop is the frontal cortex, the area that is responsible for deep thinking and the ability to understand the consequences of their actions. So for now, our children need us to help them limit activities and find the right balance.
And remember, you are not alone in this.