Blog Post

Help! My Child is Addicted to Fortnite!

DM asks: "My kids have gone bonkers over Fortnite and it’s becoming a daily war to get them to stop playing. Are other parents experiencing these problems? And is this game really safe for kids?"

You are not alone! The Fortnite gaming phenomenon is frustrating thousands of parents whose children are playing the game non-stop, even going so far as to hide in the bathroom or a bedroom closet to play through the night.

The good news is that there are none of the typical occult references in this game, but many parents are concerned with the violence and vulgar language children may encounter from fellow gamers. Psychologists are also sounding the alarm about children becoming so addicted to the game that they actually need treatment in order to stop.

For those who have never heard of it, Fortnite is the latest rage in multi-player online gaming. It is a game of survival where each player creates a superhero avatar who all compete against one another. Created in 2017 by Epic Games, it can be played on a variety of platforms including Microsoft Windows, macOS, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, iOS, and Android.

In one mode of the game known as Fortnite: Save the World, four players go on a mission to save the world after a fluke storm wipes out 98 percent of the population. They’re given the ability to build fortifications and are pitted against zombies.

In the wildly popular Fortnite: Battle Royale, up to 100 players can engage is a player-versus-player battle where players must look for weapons and other resources while avoiding being killed. As the battle rages, their world “shrinks” due to an incoming storm, which causes more and more confrontation between the players’ avatars. The object is to be the last player standing.

The Battle Royale version has become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon with children flocking to the game. Within nine months of its introduction, it gathered 125 million players and is currently earning $1 million in revenue a day.

Along with this popularity has come a rash of problems. Child psychologists are beginning to sound the alarm about young patients who are so obsessed with the game they can’t stop and have been caught playing. Some have even thrown violent tantrums when parents take the game away. Others have been brought to psychologists because of suddenly failing grades and a loss of interest in real-world social activities.

Emily Gifford, a clinical psychologist in Westchester, New York told LiveScience that some of her Fortnite-obsessed patients “are struggling to manage their time and are constantly fighting with their parents about when they can get back on the game.” But this isn’t new to Gifford who says she sees this type of behavior with other video games as well.

In one case, a nine-year-old girl from the United Kingdom landed in rehab after becoming so addicted to Fortnite she wet herself to avoid moving and hit her father when he tried to stop her from playing.

Other problems concern the way the game pushes players to make additional in-game purchases to acquire more items and animations.

Common Sense Media also warns about what children are exposed to while gaming online. “While there isn't any profanity in the game dialogue, its online nature could expose younger players to iffy language from random strangers in voice or on-screen text chat.”

Parents also weighed in to say they were disturbed by how the game “sugar coats” violence and the killing of other human beings. One parent complained that the website claimed the game developed “strategic thinking” while kids killed “monsters.” But when the parent actually watched the game, the “monsters” were the avatars of the other players.

“So, contrary to what this website stated, the game did not involve killing ‘monsters’, but rather involved killing human beings albeit in a fantasy setting. So, bottom line, if you are a parent considering allowing your children to play this game you need to understand that it involves killing humans, not monsters, and involves the use of military and automatic-type weapons. In my opinion as a former Army officer, hunter and gun owner, this game trivializes killing human beings, normalizes violent gun use, including AR 15 type weapons, and otherwise desensitizes children to violence.”

Another parent complained that most reviews say the game is “not THAT bad” but “In a day and age where we are fighting gun violence and insane kids who have no feeling for human life, why would we allow this? Okay, there's no blood or gore. It's a little cartooney. But I sat there and watched my son shoot his friends, axe other players to death, and kill other anonymous players hiding under things and crouching in corners.”

Plugged In, which offers Christian reviews of children’s entertainment, also raised concerns about the violence.

“In our increasingly violent culture, even a cartoony take on violence has the possibility of being desensitizing—an issue that families will need to consider before taking the plunge on this one. Some parents may well decide that even this game's sanitized shooting is still too realistic,” the review states.

Parents are advised to keep control of their child’s game time by establishing limits and/or using the parental controls on the console to shut down the system when the time for play is over.

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