If you have children, and you haven’t heard of Fortnite, either they’re too young to be online, or they’re just not telling you about it. The game is the latest must-play activity, 2018’s answer to Minecraft. Newsweek just published a feature article about it on May 11, 2018, detailing how even professional athletes are hooked on the online game. But they’re adults. We’re focusing on kids and what parents need to know to keep them safe while playing. We went to Titania Jordan, Chief Parenting Officer of Bark, an application which helps parents monitor their children’s social media, to get her professional insight.
First, some background on Fortnite: At the start of each game, there are 100 players–some your kids may know, many they don’t. They are placed into an arena, solo or with a team, to fight for their survival. Players can search for weapons and other resources to increase their odds. If you die, you’re done with that particular game. The sole survivor is the winner. It is a seriously addictive and fun game.
Central Penn Parent: How is Fortnite possibly a dangerous game for kids?
Titania Jordan: Fortnite, while not exceptionally gory in nature, does expose children to scenes of violence. The violence is cartoonish and bloodless, but still, any active shooter game gives many parents pause these days. Another concern parents might have is exposure to offensive language or inappropriate content from random players, due to the online open chat feature. Finally, the digital playground is now where predators lurk, and based on our research, online grooming takes place more often than you’d think.
CPP: While many kids share their Fortnite prowess with their parents, how can other parents tell if their child is playing it without their knowledge?
Jordan: Children can play a free download of Fortnite on a PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, or Mac, and a mobile version is available for iOS. Android devices should have access in the near future. Mobile playing of Fortnite requires iOS 11 and an internet connection, and is compatible with iPhone SE, 6S, 7, 8, X, iPad Mini 4, Air 2, 2017, and Pro. Parents can look for the Fortnite app icon (below) on their child’s device. If it’s there, chances are, they’re playing it.
CPP: How does Fortnite compare to other popular games, like Minecraft?
Jordan: Fortnite is more realistic than Minecraft in terms of violent expressions and graphics, but remains cartoonish and uses the same type of strategy to survive and collaborate with team members. Also, the zombie apocalypse theme is rampant throughout culture these days, and Fortnite is no exception.
CPP: Why should parents care what games their kids are playing online?
Jordan: There are many reasons why parents should care about the games their children are playing online, but three come to mind as the most pressing. First, any kind of screen time is addictive, and limiting your child’s gaming can only be good for their mental and physical well-being. Second, video games can expose children to all kinds of inappropriate content. Explicit language, sexual content, and violent subject matter are themes that should not be present during childhood. Third, online predators are a real and present danger. These creeps have moved from real life playgrounds to digital ones. They are looking for lonely and vulnerable children to engage with. It’s a sickening thought, but it is a reality, and one you must protect against.
CPP: What can parents do to monitor their kids’ game-playing activities to keep them as safe as possible?
Jordan: Unfortunately, gaming platforms have not yet opened up their API to monitoring platforms like Bark that would enable parents to keep their children safer online. The best bet, currently, is to have open and honest conversations with your children about digital dangers. The next course of action is to enable any and all parental control options your child’s gaming console or mobile device might have. Finally, feel free to join Parenting Geeks on Call , a private Facebook group where you can keep tabs on the latest happenings in digital parenting.