As kids head back to school this fall, parents are turning to Facebook in search of advice from other parents about how to handle their kids’ video game obsession with the wildly popular online, Fortnite.
Fortnite has attracted more than 125 million players in the year since it launched, according to its developer, Epic Games. Chances are, your kiddo is one of them.
But what do you do when your child has spent the whole summer playing Fortnite, and now has to transition back into “real life.” Going to school, managing studies, putting something that consumed their time on the back burner in place of something much less riveting.
That’s what parents are eager to find out.
Several Facebook groups have popped up across the social networking site as of late, full of parents seeking help with this Fortnite obsession as the focus turns back to school.
Dr. Adam Pletter is a child psychologist based out of Maryland. He created the group, Fortnite iParent-101, which educates parents about the game itself and helps them manage their child’s relationship with it. The idea is not to cut your child off from the game completely as it’s stimulating, and something they enjoy. But rather, to find a healthy balance between gaming and other activities.
“I created the group very specifically to give parents a safe place to come in and talk without judgment,” Pletter told ABC News.
It’s an important community to have because managing your child’s gaming relationship is only part of the struggle. There’s also this aspect of a generational balance—trying to keep up with our kids.
“Many parents in this generation are referred to as ‘digital immigrants’ — we did not grow up with the internet,” Pletter explained. “Our kids are referred to as ‘digital natives,’ they grew up with it, they don’t think anything is wrong about it.”
The group is a place of solace and “very specific tips” for parents who are navigating the murky waters of the gaming generation.
Social media groups have long been a great place to find answers to just about any focus area. Facebook has everything from first-time mom groups, to bento box groups, to keto diet groups and empty nesters support groups. They’re started by real people for real people.
“It is such a relief to connect with other parents who are struggling with the same questions that you are,” said parenting expert Rachel Simmons. “And it can really free you up to focus on what to do, instead of sitting around and worrying about what you’ve done wrong.”
When it comes to screen time, and managing your child’s relationship with video games like Fortnite, experts recommend these four steps:
Understand the game your child is playing
Just like you can’t manage a restaurant until you’ve worked there and learned the ropes, you can’t manage your child’s relationship with video games well if you’re clueless as to what you’re managing. Learn about what your child is playing, why they enjoy it so much, what the goal is, how you get to the goal, etc. If your kid was playing soccer, you’d learn about the game so you could best cheer them on and help them to improve. It’s no different with video games. Begin with the end in mind, and brush up on your video game knowledge.
Know who your child is playing with in real life
Parents, this one is huge. In this digital age where online safety is just as important as teaching your kids not to take candy from strangers, you have to know who your child is playing with in real life. It’s safe and healthy for them to play with their friends—the ones who raid your cabinets and smell like middle school boys. But random internet dudes should not be welcome in the Fortnite circle with your child.
Establish boundaries + communicate the reasons behind them
Set gaming hours, have consequences for sneaking game time, make homework and sleep a priority, and explain why it has to be this way. Because Fortnite is a great hobby, but there are other activities that are just as important to their development. This, as frustrating as it may be for both you and your child, is a great teaching opportunity for real life skills. There’s a healthy balance to everything, and whether you’re 13 or 42, knowing how to prioritize your time and energy is integral to succeeding at anything in life.
If you set boundaries, stick with them. If your child breaks the rules, enforce the consequences. Make a schedule and stick to it, and refrain from bribery—it’s different from prioritizing and teaches your child a whole different set of manipulation skills that give them the upper hand.
Your child’s Fortnite obsession is manageable. And with the right resources, you can find a healthy balance for you and your kids.