If you have a preteen to a teenage boy, you most likely know the game Fortnite. Fortnite has snuck into our homes and sucked our children onto a bus that flies them over an island to kill each other. I tease my son that he is a Fortnite “crackhead”. Many parents are concerned with just how much time their child spends plugged into this video game. Fortnite has over 200 million registered players and Fortnite’s creator Epic games is now valued at nearly $15 billion dollars. It is a beast that we have never seen before.
It is a struggle for many parents, myself included, to pry their children away from the game. In our defense, the game does have many luring and purposeful tactics that keep them drawn in. Things like outfits called skins, dances called emotes, and regular updates to keep the game fresh and new. Another allure many overlook with this game is that it is interactive. Players can talk to each other, and this social interaction is a huge factor.
Fortnite has become a social scene for boys. Especially for those who may be shy, or struggle with face to face interaction. Many have become rude, defiant, angry, and resentful when simply asked to unplug. This is the part that concerns parents because they see signs of addiction. I know several parents who are not allowing their child to play the game as to avoid the confrontations, but they are seeing their child suffer from isolation because they can not relate socially with a majority of their peers.
So what do we do? Growing up, we had video games that kept our attention, but it’s different now. The gaming experience is more intense with many factors pulling on our children. Explaining to our children that “moderation is key” is essential, but it’s not the only thing we should do. I give my son time restraints but I also take the time to watch while he plays. I ask questions about the game. I ask about his friends’ gamer tags. Some friends he knows from school and some he knows strictly through the game.
This is always a talking point because it is my responsibility to keep him safe. I tell him about strangers luring children through video games. I tell him about swatting. I inform him that he should never give out his personal information through the game. This is teaching him how to be an aware digital citizen, but it doesn’t stop there. I listen to his conversations with his friends. I know the strategies he uses to win his Battle Royale. I also have to talk about “trolls” and how people behind screens build themselves up by putting others down. How people like that love to see you “triggered”. I have to tell him to get off because he is bragging about his “V Bucks”. I have to cut him off when he is not being a humble winner. I have to explain what that looks like, and the dos and don’ts of winning.
This is all time consuming and believe me, I’d much rather be watching something else, but my son needs to learn these very important lessons. Fortnite is only the beginning of his life with technology. I cannot keep him from it forever and right now I have opportunities to teach him through this game. Sometimes he gets so upset about losing that he is screaming and listing all the reasons why it wasn’t his fault. This sparks an immediate conversation about how to cool down and “take the L.” What is cool, is that he is teaching me things too and we are bonding with each other and he feels comfortable coming to me and expressing his feelings about getting a 19 kill streak and how his friends were stealing his loot.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do let him play the game without me breathing down his neck but he has to play it on the living room television. He has to answer my questions or he has to get off. He has to keep up his grades and do his homework before he can play anything. These are all rules we established before he could play. I do not have set hours he can play but he knows that some times are off-limits. I believe it is important for them to see their parents play video games too. Showing an interest in what they do goes a long way. Parenting isn’t easy in fact, it’s harder than ever, but building a relationship with your child is essential.