Once upon a time fortnite was a mis-spelt word meaning 14 days. Now it’s a computer game on the tip of the tongue of both children and their adults – but for different reasons!
A couple of days ago one of number one son’s gym coaches made a remark referring to the afore-mentioned game assuming he was a regular player of it. I pointed out that we don’t have it on any of our devices and he’d never played it, the coach was completely shocked. Why was he so shocked that my 9 year old son doesn’t play a game that is recommended for 12 year olds? I have since heard that ‘EVERYONE’ plays it. I feel sure that’s not strictly true (I don’t play it!).
I have heard so many negative things about this game: 9 year old girls so addicted that they secretly get up in the night to play; young boys going to the toilet on the chair in front of the screen because they can’t drag themselves away; kids flying into a rage because their parents have suggested eating a meal or going to bed.
I thought I’d look into the game myself to see what the attraction was. Some young people were interviewed for Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour and asked what the appeal of the game was. In their words: anyone can play it; everyone is equal; it’s a playful, fun game; it fuels adrenaline; lots of intense battles - got to concentrate to stay alive; it’s a team game so you’ve got to cover the back of your friends.
It seems that one of the positives of ‘Fortnite’ is its team element, where the players have to look out for their team-mates. This, at least, combats the isolation that some games can bring to the lone player. It also teaches our kids how to work as part of a group, collaborating with others.
The game is changed every couple of weeks (hence the name, I guess) which keeps it exciting and challenging for the players. I suppose I can see why it has such a draw for kids.
There certainly are children, though, who are forming unhealthy attachments to the game and as it seems to be interfering with their daily lives then maybe we could even say they are addicted. The manufacturers of these games appear to know what they are doing, the games are intentionally designed to get our kids well and truly hooked. However they don’t have to take any responsibility for this.
How do we, as parents, compete with this exciting, interesting, challenging game? How do we convince our children to leave the screen to eat with us, talk to us? I’m afraid I don’t have any specific answers for Fortnite but the general advice for kids and screens might work in this case too. The advice I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources is:
1. Have time boundaries in place for screen time.
2. Keep all devices downstairs, then there’s no temptation at bedtime
3. Sit with and speak to your children about what they’re watching and what they’re playing – try not to be judgmental (I know, it’s hard not to start a conversation with ‘in my day….’).
4. Engage internet filters and timers. You can learn how to do this from your internet provider.
5. The distraction technique. Get the whole family out doing interesting, engaging activities outdoors. Despite what they try and tell us kids (even teenagers) love spending time with their parents Whether it’s making dens, walking, surfing or something else you love as a family, it’s important to do it now. We don’t have long with our children so grab each day when you can to make memories.