If you are dealing with children who are obsessing over the game Fortnite, and you aren’t sure how to encourage healthy habits with its use, you are not alone. This game has become a source of fascination for many boys and girls of any age. The game offers an online platform to engage and play with other gamers, including your own real life friends. This combination of video game and social experience has all the ingredients to cause kids to become infatuated or addicted to its use – and many parents are reporting just that.
So how does a parent encourage their children to use Fortnite responsibly? Is it possible to foster habits where children can play online games like this, without it becoming an addiction? Here are a few strategies that might help:
1. Allow your child to manage their own use.
This might sound crazy, and you are probably wondering if I have lost my mind, but sometimes giving the child a sense of control can bring with it an increased sense of responsibility. My suggestion here is to come up with a reasonable amount of time that your kid will be allowed to play Fortnite. This might be very individual and could depend on the child’s age, personality, and even behaviors you are seeing when they play. So for example, if you decide as a family that little Sam will be allowed 3.5 hours of Fortnite time per week, he can ONLY play up to 3.5 hours a week, BUT he can decide if he wants to blow the whole time allotment in one go, or play a little each day. He is in charge of that, but when the time is up, that is it. No more Fortnite until the next week!
This might cause some struggles at first, but it will eventually teach your kid to have some self-control with when, and how long, they play. The use of timers is suggested, because it’s very easy for them to lose track of time when they become engrossed in the game, and parents can also easily get sidetracked and forget to keep track. So Sam will decide how much time he wants to play, and you can set the timer for that length of time. When the timer goes off it is up to him if he wants to turn the game off or keep playing (if he has weekly time remaining), but you can remind him about the weekly limit, and how much remains compared to how many days of the week remain. He will start to make his own decisions based on this. This allows you to relinquish the role of the bad guy or “keeper of the video games” and put the onus back on him. If he blows through his 3.5 hours in the first few days, he will have to wait 5 days without the game to play again – but that was his choice.
2. Fortnite is a privilege.
It is always helpful with kids to establish ground rules, and STAY consistent with enforcing those rules. With Fortnite this is no different, and it is reasonable to expect that they fulfill certain commitments in order to gain the privilege of playing the game. This can be any number of things depending on the family, but certain obligations such as homework or household chores should be completed before gaming. This sets your child up to develop good work ethic and learn that relaxation and rewards are something to look forward to after your work is done. It also prevents the trap of them either running out of the time/or motivation to get their work done after gaming into the evening.
3. No-gaming zones.
Certain times should be off limits for playing the game. Screen time can be very detrimental to sleep if it occurs directly before bed. This applies to children and parents alike. A good rule is to power down all electronics about an hour before the targeted bedtime. Allow some time for calmer activities that don’t involve a screen (such as crafts, reading, playing board games), so that your child can avoid being overstimulated right before bed, and will be able to fall asleep better. Another good idea is to have a rule about how early they are allowed to play. If they know they won’t be allowed to play until after 10:00 am, this avoids the temptation of shorting themselves on sleep in the morning in order to play.
4. Fortnite money is earned and has a limit.
One of the most common complaints parents have about this game is the in-game purchases, and subsequent begging from their kids. Players can purchase different items or packages within the game to improve their performance and their odds of winning or getting further. The added social pressures of “keeping up with the Joneses” can lead to children who are constantly whining for more purchases to be made. Unfortunately it doesn’t often help to reason with them and point out that they are spending their (your) money on things that aren’t real and don’t have any real value.
What can help here, is to have an agreed upon amount or limit to what they can spend each week. So for instance if you decide that they can spend $5 a week (or whatever amount is reasonable for your family), then that is all they get. And if a new “skin” or item comes out the following day and the money has already been spent, then that is just too bad. They will have to wait until the next week when they are allowed more money. The other thing I suggest is that the money is also a privilege and earned with good behaviors and getting their work done. They will soon learn that if they want to buy better packages or more expensive items, they may have to not spend anything for a few weeks and save up their allotted money. A great lesson in budgeting!
5. Bad behavior has consequences.
If your child is showing you through unwanted behaviors that they are unable to handle the responsibility of playing Fortnite, then a break needs to be enforced. So whether this is tantrums, breaking the other rules, or whining for more time/money to spend above and beyond the agreed upon limits, Fortnite will be banned for a length of time. The first time this happens they will probably kick up a stink and act like you are the meanest person in the world. It probably won’t be pretty. But if you follow through and stick to the ban for the whole length of time, they will learn that they can’t get away with that behavior, and the behaviors will stop pretty quickly. If for whatever reason your child doesn’t learn the first time, the second ban from the game can be a longer period of time. So if you banned the game for a week, then notice unwanted behaviors again right away, it can be banned for two weeks the next time.
This might sound like a lot of work, and in the initial few weeks the growing pains might be very real, but with consistency these strategies should help your child to use Fortnite in a healthy and respectful manner. Ideally these ground rules would be introduced when the game is first allowed into the house, but if you have already noticed that Fortnite has taken control of your house, it is never too late to have a family discussion and implement the new rules. And if your child can’t learn to use Fortnite responsibly, then there is nothing wrong with banning it altogether in your house. You are still in charge!