For many parents, just hearing the word “FortNite” conjures up all sorts of feels. It may be something you love to play right along with your kids — or you may be totally over everything FortNite — especially those awkward victory dances every kid seems to know. It’s recently been estimated that over 40 million people are playing it! If it feels like this little game is taking over your life, and any free time your child used to have, help is here.
So what exactly is it? FortNite: Battle Royale is a free-to-play online shooting/survival game. It’s a multi-player battle that starts with 100 people all being dropped onto an island together. The object is to collect weapons and build forts, while trying to eliminate the players. You can either choose to play alone, or with up to four other people where you work together to survive. The goal is to be the last player standing.
Here are a few things that make the game great.
- FortNite fosters many of the same STEM skills it takes to play Minecraft.
- In-app purchases are available but they aren’t pushed on the user.
- Each round only takes 20 minutes to play and built-in parental controls are available.
Here are a few things that make the game tricky:
- The game is rated 12 and is a lot like a virtual Hunger Games. This means there is fighting, shooting and people die. (However, the violence is cartoonish in nature and there is no blood or gore.)
- Because 100 people play at a time, there have been reports of children being groomed by adults in the game under false pretenses. This has mostly been through the private chat feature.
- Since there are so many people playing the same game at once, your child is likely to lose a lot… and if they can’t handle that well, it won’t be much fun for you.
Each game is played in real time, it can’t be paused and typically only lasts about 20 minutes. So while this means it may be easy for a parent to set a time limit on play, if your child is playing on a team, be aware that they won’t want to leave at just any time because they’ll be letting down the whole squad.
Ideas for limit setting
While FortNite can actually be a decent social experience (because they can hop on to collaborate and chat with their friends), it is not a healthy substitute for real, personal interaction. If you’ve determined that it’s time to set some tighter limits around playtime, it may mean loosening others. Maybe you can explain that since you’re going to be allowing less time for game play, you’ve decided they can stay up a little later at night, or make special plans with a friend.
How do you know what is a reasonable amount of time to play? As a rule of thumb, five rounds of FortNite will take about an hour if they win every round. This is pretty unlikely, so some rounds will be shorter. The best approach is to periodically check in on your child to ask how many rounds they have left. This will help to manage their expectations, and allow them to communicate to their online friends that they can only commit to a certain number of games. Here are some strategies you might consider to create healthy boundaries around gameplay.
- Earning play time. One strategy that’s become popular with parents is awarding play time in exchange for reading (or chore) time. If your child reads for a half hour, they can play for the same amount of time.
- Weekend play. Some parents already have rules around the use of screens during the week, but allowing your child to play FortNite only on the weekends could keep the weeknight power struggles at bay.
- First things first. If you’re comfortable allowing your child to play video games during the week, perhaps your only rule is that they’ve completed any necessary household chores, practiced their sport or completed their homework before they sit down to play.
- Play to unwind. Or perhaps the reverse is best. Maybe as a means of transitioning from school to home, you allow your child a set amount of play time as soon as they walk in the door. Once that number of rounds are complete, devices will be shut off for the rest of the night so dinner, chores, homework and any other family interactions will not be interrupted.
- Change in-game controls. If your issue has nothing to do with the amount of time your child is playing, and rather your concern over what they may be exposed to, a quick Google search will show you how to shut off voice chat, or activate parental controls on the account.