Games

As Fortnite blows up, parents need to up their game

Does your kid talk endlessly about Tilted Towers and V-Bucks? Do his shouts of “Revive me! Revive me!” ring throughout your home? Have you considered moving to a remote island without Internet access to rid yourself of absolutely anything having to do with Fortnite?

Welcome to Fortnite frenzy! You’re the parent of one of 125 million players of the enormously popular multiplayer third-person-shooter videogame Fortnite: Battle Royale.

As parents of Fortnite players know, getting kids to stop playing can turn into another battleground. According to a new Common Sense/SurveyMonkey poll, about one in five parents say it’s at least moderately difficult to get kids off the game. About a quarter say they’re concerned about how long their kid is playing, and the same number express worry over their kid’s exposure to violence in the game.

Here are a few other key findings:

– Fortnite is super popular – but still not as popular as Instagram. Sixty-one percent say they have played Fortnite, coming close to the percentages of teens who say they use Snapchat (73%) and Instagram (74%), found in a previous survey.

– Girls play, too (but not as much as boys). Although teen boys are much more likely to say they’ve played (75%), 47% of teen girls say they’ve played. Of teens who play, about 22% of boys play at least once a day, compared with 9% of girls.

– It might be more tempting than geometry. Twenty-seven percent say they’ve played Fortnite during class at school.

– Swearing happens. A third of teens (33%) say they’ve been exposed to inappropriate language or harassment while chatting with other players.

– Fortnite equals friends (especially for boys). Half of teens (50%) say playing Fortnite helps them keep up with their friends, 50% say it has helped them learn teamwork, 44% have made a friend online, 40% have improved their communication skills and 39% have bonded with a sibling. But boys are more likely than girls to claim positive benefits from playing Fortnite. Notably, teen girls are more likely than boys to say they have bonded with a sibling by playing Fortnite.

So how do you manage a game that’s more fun than math class, keeps kids connected, and even has some positive benefits? By knowing enough about the game to help your kid keep it balanced with all the other stuff they need to do. One way to learn more about the game is to sit down and play it yourself (one in five dads have tried it, as have about 18% of moms). Then, when it comes to setting limits, you’ll have a bit more insider knowledge. These tips will help, too:

– Limit by round or time, depending on type of play. In “playground mode”, friends play together in an open world without the usual constraints of a normal Battle Royale session. This means that if you learned the trick of telling your kid they can play a certain number of rounds (which can last anywhere from 1 to 20 minutes), this new type of play makes those rules moot. In “playground mode” kids can endlessly “respawn” (or come back to life), which means that if you want to set a limit, it needs to be based on time (like half an hour or 90 minutes). And kids’ usual excuse of not being able to quit mid-game doesn’t apply in “playground mode”.

– Know how to use Fortnite settings. A big concern for parents – especially of younger kids – is the ability to talk to strangers while playing Fortnite. There are a few very easy ways to deal with that. First, don’t get your kid a headset. Without a headset, kids can still play but won’t be able to talk to anyone (unless they simultaneously call their friends on their phones). Another option: Go to settings from within the game, click on “Privacy: Public” and change to “Privacy: Friends” or “Privacy: Private”. That way kids will play only with people whose handles they know (and hopefully have met in real life). Last, turn off voice chat. Go to settings, click on the gear icon, and toggle voice chat to off.

– Use parental controls. If you need something a little stronger to enforce your rules around Fortnite, you have a few options. Because Fortnite needs to be connected to the Internet to work, any tool that will shut off Internet access will allow you to shut off the game. If kids are playing on a console, turning off WiFi through your provider’s app or device should be pretty easy. If kids are playing on an iPhone or iPad, you can use the settings within the device to set limits (or disable access completely) to Fortnite. Check out more information about Screen Time settings in iOS 12. Also, some parental-control products, such as Circle by Disney, include Fortnite-specific controls. – Common Sense Media/Tribune News Service