I have had the opportunity to nanny two older kids, one aged 8, and the other 13. They and their friends battle royale daily. I have always monitored the games they are playing and downloading on the iPad. There is so much inappropriate rubbish and violence out there! This game began to especially grab my attention because they started showing signs of addiction by trying to steal the ipad to play, as well as talking about it excessively amongst each other.
When I asked them what the game was about, they explained that Fortnite is a survival game where 100 players fight against each other in player versus player combat to be the last one standing. With my own research, I have learned further that it is a fast-paced, action-packed game, not unlike The Hunger Games, where strategic thinking is a must in order to survive. While it’s possible to play the game alone, most people play in groups with friends and fight alongside, or against, their pals. I was shocked to learn that Fortnite has clocked up more than 45 million downloads, and the hype around Fortnite has grown so big that schools are warning parents to limit access to the game. While the action game is aimed at kids aged 12+, there are YouTube videos of children as young as 6 playing it. This is where good parenting must step in right?
I began to become even more concerned, when the younger 8 year old started talking me through the pros and cons of pump shotguns vs. assault rifles in detail. Really? Is this what we as adults should be encouraging as healthy entertainment? While I do not think he will become a mass murderer from playing this, the conversation did make wonder if access to video games and entertainment featuring military-grade weaponry will in-turn normalize ownership of these types of weapons for him and his classmates. With all the mass shootings, is this really something I want to contribute towards?
Here are more reasons that kids can get addicted to this game:
- Popularity: Fortnite (Battle Royale) has very bright, almost cartoon-like graphics with lots of costumes, such as space suits and dinosaur outfits. You can also pull a variety of dance moves during the game, and some of these have taken on a cult appeal in schoolyards and around the globe. All of this means the game is really fun to watch as well as play, making it a huge hit with all the famous video game YouTubers and streamers. They’re broadcasting many hours of themselves playing the game to their millions of fans, making Fortnite the most watched game on major streaming service Twitch.
- The fear of disappointing friends: If you play in a squad with your friends, then teamwork is key to killing off enemies and staying in the game. There’s no way to pause in the middle of a game, so if you quit early, you’ll be leaving your friends in the lurch. There is an element of peer group pressure here.
- Survival Instinct: Fortnite is so addictive because when you lose, you only lose by a hair. Players in this game have deceptively low HP, even with full shields and health. Realistically, you’re never more than 5 assault rifle shots away from sheer death–and the moment you die–the first thing you see is the health bar of the opponent who shot you.
Professir Yucel is a clinical neuropsychologist and specializes in addictions. He says games like Fortnite are designed to exploit the brain’s vulnerabilities in the same way poker machines do.
“One of the things we’re very much attracted to are rewards, and these games are so rich with potential,” he said.”For example, you might have a small win and there’s a celebratory sound that comes through, or a small win and you can unlock an option or get a new skin.” These small victories trigger a dopamine burst in the brain’s reward system that trigger the habit system.
“It will say you should keep going because there’s mastery, social status or winning to be gained,” he said.
- Customization option/In-Game Store: While the popular Battle Royale portion of the game is free, you can also spend money on in-game purchases, such as items like clothing, weapons, tools or dance moves, to customize your characters. This is something some parents have expressed concern over due to their kids spending hundreds of dollars, often using their parent’s credit card details to pay for it. I have also found out from the 13 year old that you can also use iTunes credit to buy v bucks in the game! Thousands of items are available in the in-game store, with some of the most expensive appearance upgrades and outfits costing over $10 each. To get the best rewards, users are encouraged to sign up for a Battle Pass (costing around $10), which then allows access to a second tier of elusive and prestigious prizes. There are even item costing $25!
When you are killed in Fortnite, spending a few dollars on a new outfit or weapon can cheer you up and get you back in the game when you might otherwise have quit.
Student loan portal lendEDU has run a study that surveyed 1,000 Fortnite players about their spending habits. They found that there was a 69% conversion to paying players for a free game. Of those who spend money, they’ve spent an average of $84.67. That is huge, especially for kids.
- Withdrawal symptoms: Parenting expert Elizabeth O’Shea says playing Fortnite can change a child’s personality if they are allowed to play for unlimited amounts of time.“They can cause withdrawal symptoms in the same way that drugs would,” she says. “This can lead to anger, irritation, and make them more likely to be incredibly rude and make a large fuss if they are told to turn it off. The best thing to do in this case is to teach your child self-control, and the best way to do this is to set boundaries, for example by saying they can only play for a set amount of time each day.” In fact, on the flip side, there are positives to games such as Fortnite if they are played in moderation.“It’s only when it’s taken too far that it becomes a problem.”
How to Help Your Kids:
- Play the game with them or watch your kids play so that you can sense if it is appropriate or not for them.
- Age – Deter kids under 12 from Fortnite and get them to play other less violent and addictive games.
- Turn off chat – To have any meaningful play you have to be hooked up online. That means chat with anybody who is there. Turn off chat if you are concerned–or keep it loud, without headphones–so you can hear what is going on.
- Limit/Monitor amount of time – The obvious is to limit the amount of time they are allowed to be on Fortnite. They should have to do homework, play outdoor activities, practice musical instruments etc first. Set us some clear rules such as: if they finish all their homework, play outside for 30 mins, practice piano for 20 mins, then they can play fortnight for 30 mins.
- De-sensotization of killing – Even though it is cartoonish…kids are killing each other and then also talking about it as if it is a good thing. This can create de-sensotization of killing. You need to remind them of the truth about violence, shooting, knives etc.
Here is a really great book about the effects of violence in games and media on our children. This will help you guide them in an informed way.
- Monitor what their allowance is going towards – If your kid has itchy fingers and doesn’t understand the concept of money be careful. The game has lots of possible purchases and you don’t want a sudden and unexpected bill for fortnite purposes. Make sure that’s locked down. However, kids can just go get an iTunes gift card and use those. In other words, be careful on what they are spending their money on.
- Parental Controls – Kids can get into devices even with passwords they supposedly are not meant to know. They can figure out how to get around your general parental controls etc. Believe me, this happens all the time! I would consider using the following effective parental control methods, being that these are not apps. and there is no way to turn them off.
When it comes to adding parental controls to your home wireless network, you have a couple of options. You can add a parental control device to your current Wi-Fi router or replace your router with one that has parental controls installed.
Best Parental Control Devices:
KoalaSafe is a small device that plugs into your current Wi-Fi router (in this case, with a provided ethernet cable). Where it’s different, however, is that it creates an entirely new kid-friendly wireless network in the house. So adults stay on “PatriotsAreChampions17” while all kid devices move over to “DTsNeighborhoodRocks.” Naturally, there’s a companion app where you create individual profiles, set all the usual controls (time limits, usage reports, etc.) and block sites ⏤ either individually or by general categories like gaming, file sharing, or shopping. KoalaSafe is a one-time purchase and there are no monthly fees.
Circle with Disney is a small device that pairs with your home router to create a wireless network with parental controls in place. Setting up Circle is quick and easy—it takes only a few minutes to install the parent app on your phone and connect the device to your router. You will need to check to see if your router is compatible with Circle first.
Router with parental control included:
Gryphon is a new class of smart WiFi routers with an app that makes it easy for you to protect your kids and your privacy online, as well as manage your entire network. Here are some of its features in reference to its parental controls:
- Create multiple users – safe for kids, unrestricted for adults
- See website ratings with patent pending CrowdRanking
- View browsing history even if your child surfs with Incognito Mode
- Set Bedtimes/Homework Times
- Pause Internet for dinner time
- Enforce Safe Search & YouTube to hide inappropriate results
- Grant approval to website or bedtime extension requests from anywhere, in real time
If it is not this Fortnite game, than there will probably be something else that concerns you about your child. Life as a parent! Stay informed and interested in what your kids are doing. I do not mean in an over-controlling or over-parenting way. Parent in an empathetic, caring, and loving way. Technology is advancing rapidly and it is becoming more and more difficult to monitor. However, with the right tools you can do your best and help raise thoughtful, loving, and kind children.