On a weekly basis at the moment, we have parents in to talk to us with concerns about their child’s use of the online game Fortnite. Some parents are concerned about their child’s fascination with this with platform, others have concerns about their child’s safety while playing. There has been reports of online bullying from strangers, foul and abusive language, deterioration of children’s behaviour and using parent’s credit cards for online purchasing. These have all been reoccurring discussions within our families of years 4, 5 and 6 at TMS since September.
What is Fortnite?
Fortnite is a computer game available across all of the different gaming platforms (Xbox, PlayStation, PC, MAC…) and combines aspects of already popular forms of gaming – the construction of games like Minecraft or Roblox and the combat of more adult oriented games such as Call of Duty. It has two modes, an individual game (Save the World) and a multiplayer game (Battle Royale).
Chances are that if your children are playing Fortnite, they are playing the free multiplayer version, Battle Royal. In this version, up to 100 players are involved in a match together where they fight to be the last one standing. This doesn’t involve fighting against zombies, although players can purchase costumes to make them look like the undead. A battle can take up to around 20 minutes and is slightly less realistic and less gory than computer games aimed at adults.
What are the risks?
One of the main risks in Fortnight (aside from the violent content), is the open chat. Children can be exposed to offensive language and mature content from other users – this is not filtered. Users can switch off the chat function (see below).
Age inappropriate content. Fortnite puts players into a world where people are encouraged to prey on each other in violent ways. The graphics are more cartoon like and this can be a preferable alternative to some of the more graphic games available as there is less gore, however, the cartoon graphics make the game appealing to players for whom the content may not be suitable.
One of the more common concerns among parents who have come to see us regarding their child’s use of Fortnite, is the affect that the game has on their child’s behaviour – saying that children quickly become addicted to the game. The game offers intense gameplay which fire up the pleasure receptors in children’s brains. The pleasurable moments provided are brief (a kill before moving on to find the next player to hunt down) and so the player is left looking for the next success. Players can quickly become drawn into this pleasure seeking cycle and become agitated, upset and unreasonable when asked to stop.
What can we do to keep our children safe?
While we recommend that games such as Fortnite are not appropriate for children of Primary school age, we understand that there is pressure from the children to join in with these games from both peers and social media (such as YouTubers like DanTDM). If you decide to allow your child access to the game, we recommend taking these steps.
Disable the chat function:
Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main Fortnite page by selecting the three bars, then the cog icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can adjust several audio features, including voice chat. Turn the setting from on to off by tapping the arrows.
Set (and stick to) timed sessions:
Games take about 20minutes and it can be easy to allow ‘just one more’ battle before bedtime. Set a time limit or number of battles and stick to it. Ensure that there is adequate time between the end of play and bed to allow children enter their bedrooms in a calm state, ready for rest and not fired up about their previous battle.
Much more in depth information about this and just about any other online service,
can be found at http://www.commonsensemedia.org