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Is Fortnite a Real Problem for Kids?

It’s been too long since I’ve posted a blog on the APACenter website! I have been blogging lately at Psychology Today under Tech Happy Life. One of my more recent blogs is about the game, Fortnite. It’s all the rage these days among kids, teens, and young adults. It is mostly males playing, with about 72% male and 28% female players. Is Fortnite a problem for your kids?
You can see my video blog about Fortnite above, or read the full blog on Psychology Today. But I’m going to do a quick summary here.

What Is Fortnite?

Most people are playing Fortnite Battle Royale, which is an action-based survival game. It has elements of first-person shooters, such as Call of Duty and Halo. However, Fortnite is from a 3rd person perspective, not a first-person perspective. It also has elements of building, like in Minecraft. Typically, it’s played with 100 players at once with the goal being to be the last person (or team) standing. Using various weapons, players kill off their opponents. However, the violence is cartoonish and not bloody or gory. It’s rated “T” for teens by the ESRB. The most popular version is free, but skins and other accessories can be purchased. It can be played across platforms, so that a person on a PC can play with (or against) someone on an Xbox and even an iPhone. Many players find the greatest enjoyment playing with friends on teams – either in person (e.g., one person on an Xbox, another on an iPad) or online.

The Benefits of Fortnite?

I’m not here to throw Fortnite, gaming, or screens “under the bus.” There are many benefits of screens in general, of course, and gaming in particular. This will sound obvious, but the reason so many folks are playing Fortnite is because it is lots of fun! So, it’s not a “waste of time” in that sense. Just think of all of the things that we do for fun or enjoyment these days – fantasy football, mountain-biking, happy hours, movies, TV shows, vacations, and sporting events, just to name a few. The game is particularly fun when played with friends, which creates shared experiences. It also encourages teamwork, strategy, problem-solving, and communication. Plus, “offline,” kids, teens, and adults can talk about their gaming experiences and strategies. It creates a shared language in a sense.

The Downside of Fortnite?

Overall, I’m not too concerned about the violence in Fortnite. It’s not realistic nor gratuitous. There’s no blood or gore. Although avatars are shot, bombed, etc., they basically just disappear. The player is out of the game, and no virtual corpse is left behind. My biggest concern is that the game is so engaging and enjoyable, it’s easy for people to do “overdo” it. It’s difficult to unplug. For instance, kids might be playing so much that their academics and/or sleep take a hit. I am purposefully avoiding the words “addictive” and “addiction” here because that’s still pretty controversial. Plus, kids won’t respond well to being told they are “addicted” to Fortnite (or their screens).

How Much is Too Much?

It’s difficult to say how much is too much for Fortnite, or any screen time for that matter. There are many variables involved. For example, how old is the player? Does he or she usually play solo or as part of a team? Is he or she playing online or with friends present? This might sound odd to say, but for it to be a problem, it has to cause a problem. So, if sleep, grades, hobbies, and/or in-person interactions (off the screen) are being displaced too much, then Fortnite could be causing a problem. But we could apply this same idea to any activities – tennis, chess, or leisure reading for example. My 2 cents would be to aim for about 1-2 hours of recreational screen time on weekdays and 2-3 hours of recreational screen time on weekends/holiday/summers. Note these are “soft” guidelines – there are many exceptions (e.g., sleepovers).

The Takeaway?

Turns out that my summary is longer than I had thought it would be! For the most part, Fortnite can be a fun video game for kids, teens, and adults. As parents, we just want to set some realistic limits so other, need-satisfying activities don’t get pushed off the table. These include sleep, physical activity, time for academics, and in-person social interactions. If your child is overdoing it, there are steps you can take to help bring things back into balance. I’ll cover this more in future blogs, so please stay tuned!

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