Learn more about the internet-based gaming phenomenon that Katy kids are flipping over and how parents can keep it under control.
KATY MAGAZINE | September 2018
With the advent of endless battle scenarios, creative characters, and addicting accessories, one popular online game has built somewhat of a cult following and has parents wondering...what the heck is Fortnite? Katy Magazine decided to answer some reader questions and talk about the pros and cons of letting your kids play online.
WHAT IS FORTNITE?
Epic Games hit the gaming jackpot with the creation of Fortnite, an internet-based game in which players have to survive an "end-of-days" scenario, building shelters, battling for territory, and warding off monsters, all while avoiding the "Storm", a force field that shrinks the battleground in timed intervals, forcing the players closer and closer to each other in combat.
The game celebrated it's one-year birthday in July 2018, and has made short work of expanding their characters and playing options to meet the explosive demand of new users. Fortnite is an internet gaming phenomenon that is taking Katy parents somewhat by surprise.
WHY DO KIDS LOVE IT SO MUCH?
Katy kids seem to love the cartoonish and colorful animation, freedom to roam the virtual map, lighthearted dance moves, regularly updated costumes and accessories, and the ability to play live and communicate with their friends. The Battle Royale format is an elimination-style battle, where only one player or team remains at the end of the session.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
While it is completely free to create a player profile, and players can earn new badges and items as they progress through the game, there are aspects of the game that require payment. A "Premium Battle Pass" gives players exclusive access to special challenges and new gear that's not available otherwise. The game is split up into "seasons", and a new Battle Pass must be purchased for each new season (10-weeks), and is measured in V-Bucks, the game's virtual currency.
1 Battle Pass per season = 1,000 V-Bucks ($9.99 USD)
So to break it down, your child can earn V-Bucks with no cost to you, but will not have access to special challenges and new gear. If you buy a Battle Pass, it costs $10 every 10 weeks for a new season.
*CAUTION* Your child's online game profile saves your payment info - making it possible for children to purchase V-Bucks and new "skins" without express permission. Watch their activity and your bank account closely!
HOW DO I GET MY KID TO TURN THE GAME OFF? One major point of contention with some Katy parents is that it is so hard to get their kids to hop off the game for things like sports, dinner, homework, etc. This is because unlike traditional video games which allow you to press "Pause" and come back later, Fortnite matches last about 20 minutes and cannot be left or paused. So from your child's perspective, telling them to "turn it off" with 6 minutes left means leaving their progress, sacrificing a possible win, and stranding teammates, losing points and rewards they've earned in the game. With Fortnite, it's not quite as simple as saving your progress and coming back later, which can make it tough when it's time to stop. To the kids, it can feel the same as if you were to run a marathon, come within sight of the finish line, and have a race official force you to quit. Frustrating.
CAN I LIMIT PLAYING TIME?
Yes. Most parents don't know that if their child plays on PlayStation, XBox, or Nintendo Switch, you can use the parental controls to limit the amount of playing time your kids get by setting up an automatic "Kill Switch", so to speak. Again though, if you are going to allow them to play at all, think about adopting a "Play it out rule." If the timer goes off and there is still 3 minutes left in the match, consider letting them finish so that they can keep their points, and still follow house rules.
WHY YOU SHOULD BE CAUTIOUS
While the game does center around gun and weapon-based scenarios, the format is very cartoony, bright, and silly, and does not depict graphic violence, hand-to-hand combat, or blood. The main focus of the game is teamwork, comradery, and strategy.
HOWEVER, American Academy of Pediatrics has weighed in on the game and other games based on virtual violence concluded that "games in which killing others is the central theme is not appropriate for children (18 and under.)" Yikes. Numerous psychological studies have shown evidence that playing any video game in excess can affect a child's school performance, social skills, emotional health, and even directly impact the parent-child relationship. Games that center on killing other humans are strongly discouraged by medical professionals, especially for young boys.
According to Psychology Today, games like Fortnite have a way of desensitizing children to violence over time. Children who are addicted to screen-time and video games often do not get enough face-to-face social interaction, physical exercise, or adequate sleep, making the allowance of these games at all something to be heavily re-considered.
HOW TO LIMIT SCREEN TIME
It is up to every parent to determine what is right and healthy for their child. If you do decide to let your kids play Fortnite, or any video game for that matter, the ACA has some helpful guidelines for keeping playing time to a manageable level.
Children younger than 18 months: avoid use of screen media other than video-chatting briefly with family members.
18-24 months: Parents should allow only high-quality programming, and watch it with their children to help them understand what they're seeing.
2 - 5 years: Limit screen use to 1 hour per day of high-quality programs. Parents should co-view media with children to help them understand what they are seeing and apply it to the world around them.
Ages 6 and Older: place consistent limits on the time spent using media, and the types of media, and make sure media does not take the place of adequate sleep, physical activity and other behaviors essential to health.
Designate media-free time together like dinner or driving, as well as media-free places in the house like the bedrooms.
Talk to your children regularly about safety and accountability.