Monthly Archives: May 2018

The ‘Fortnite’ battle

Most parents have probably heard about and are seeing the online game Fortnite being played in their homes. I am often questioned about this game and spoken to about how it is being used at home and asked what should I watch out for?

Many children have access to a range of gaming consoles at home and it is a little like giving a set of car keys to a restless adolescent, eager to experience the thrill of the open road. Like a driving instructor explaining the road rules before handing over the keys, I am sure parents try their best to put in place rules, guidelines and procedures and support to help their sons in their journey.

However, the risks of wasteful, off task and even subversive use of digital devices remains present in the digital environment, particularly in homes. Students in the digital world can readily use multiple devices (e.g. mobile phones, home computers and gaming consoles), configuring these devices to run a variety of networks.

Any “carrot and stick” approach clearly requires a sophisticated educative dimension. However, whereas in the past, teachers and parents were able to role model appropriate behaviours and actions, in the digital world many parents and teachers feel alienated by a lack of expertise.

So, what can be done?

Understanding what some of the big distractions that may exist at home are, is a starting point. The focus on possible distractions takes me to the popular online game Fortnite (yes that is how you spell it) which was released in 2017.

What is it about?

  • Fortnite is a multiplayer shooting game available on gaming devices such as PlayStation, Xbox, PC or iOS devices;
  • Gaming involves a contest (party/squad) between many players. As many as 100 players can join in a single round and fight against each other until only one player is left; and
  • Players can chat with each other using headsets or text.

Why do parents need to care?

  • It is highly addictive;
  • Players spend money on upgrades;
  • Games can last for well over 20 minutes and users can play with strangers;
  • Users can come across inappropriate language; and
  • Within Australia, Fortnite has a Mature (M) rating stating that it is not recommended for children under 15 years.

Some parenting tips:

  • Be around your children if you are allowing them access to online games;
  • Check in regularly and find out what they are using and accessing (ask for their passwords);
  • Use parental controls to set up boundaries;
  • Keep the balance in terms of free time and screen time;
  • Remind your sons about their digital footprint; and
  • Visit the Office of the eSafety Commissioner for updates and relevant information:


It is important to highlight the social and ethical implications, particularly for young people as they learn how to conduct themselves in society and develop relationships with their peers and family.

Topics such as what constitutes an educational game, setting up and monitoring home networks, and legal and ethical responsibilities associated with downloading material, could be further discussion points amongst your families when it comes to playing online games.

Again, keeping the balance should remain a top priority.

Dr Steven Males
Head of Junior School
Aquinas College

Teen viewers need chat about 13 Reasons Why

The portrayal of suicide in the media was taboo for many decades, with the thinking that publicising it was potentially glorifying it – now in 2018, with the recent release of Netflix’s second season of 13 Reason’s Why – mental health organisations, schools and parents are questioning the appropriateness of TV content openly depicting teen suicide.

Schools across Australia sent letters to parents ahead of the second season release last week, promoting awareness of the graphic and confronting content of the TV show and the need to have open conversations with their teens about whether they should watch it and about what they were watching.

With the reaction to season one’s provocative portrayal of teen suicide, bullying and sexual assault, mental health agency headspace in Australia teamed with Netflix to create warnings and messages of available support to teen viewers before and at the end of each episode of season two.

Headspace said its collaboration with Netflix was aimed at making informative resources available to teens, parents and schools.

Headspace clinical practice head Vikki Ryall said viewer reactions to the show would vary depending on individual circumstances at the time.

“No two people will take exactly the same meaning or understanding out of the same episode,” Ms Ryall said.

“By providing young people with tips on how to watch the show safely and ensuring they know how to seek help we can ensure distressed viewers can be supported,” she added.

Headspace chief executive Jason Trethowan said 13 Reasons Why highlighted tough topics for teens and attempted to bring them into mainstream discussions.

“TV shows can provide parents and schools the opportunity to have conversations with young people about important issues which is great, however, there is the potential for these conversations to do more harm than good,” Mr Trethowan said.

“Our aim is to ensure young people, parents and schools are supported and equipped to have constructive conversations about the themes depicted in the show,” he said.

Headspace and Netflix offer parents tips to talking to their children about 13 Reasons Why and other resources dealing with mental health issues are available on the Headspace website.

If you or anyone you know needs further help, please contact Headspace, Lifeline, Kids Helpline, or Beyond Blue

Exam tips beyond the textbooks

Exam time, it may spark fear in some and eagerness in others – whether your son is keen to tackle the challenge of trying his best or is struggling to cope with the approaching exam period, you can assist by helping him to manage other factors in his life which may impact his study efforts.

As parents know from their own experiences with tests and exams throughout their education, figuring out effective study techniques is an individual process – what works for some may not for others.

Below are some simple everyday tips to help your son beyond the textbooks and personal study skills;

Factor in regular eating and sleeping patterns:

Eating to recharge is key. Eating regular, nutritious foods will help boys to refuel their brains. Relying on sugar-loaded or highly caffeinated drinks and foods will not sustain study periods and exam-time energy levels, these could in fact add to any nervousness/anxiousness in students.

Regular sleep patterns are also vital to enable the brain to compute all of the information it is being given. Setting regular bedtime/waking times is just as important as setting a study schedule and should be part of the ongoing study/exam schedule for boys.


Exercise helps you think better. The physical exertion of exercise helps the brain to stimulate new cell growth and increase connections between cells. There are many positives to taking time out to exercise during study/exam periods, including; focusing the brain on physical rather than mental activities, getting fresh air/change of scenery, and expelling energy to aid in stress management.

Just as exercise helps the brain so too does relaxation. Whether it is mindful meditation or time out listening to music, taking regular breaks away from the study environment will aid in the study process

Set rewards:

Nobody can study non-stop, burnout is a real thing and taking regular breaks is an important part of any study routine. Setting rewards is a good way to ensure breaks are taking place i.e. when Chapter 3 and 4 are revised I can watch one hour of TV. Regular and appropriate rewards/time out will help boys to manage their study schedule and maintain their learning for the duration of the study/exam period.

If your son/you are having problems dealing with study management and any anxiety associated with the upcoming exam period contact the school, school counsellor, GP or charity organisations such as Kids Helpline or Reach Out for guidance and support.

Celebrating mums and sons this Mothers’ Day

As mothers across Australia wake up to breakfast in bed, a few special presents and lots of love and attention from their kids this Mothers’ Day we celebrate the unique bond between mums and their sons.

Psychologist and research guru Steve Biddulph says there is a lot to growing happy, healthy boys.

“Boys don’t just grow up in a smooth and even way. You can’t just shovel in cereal, provide clean t-shirts, and have them one day wake up as a man!” Biddulph writes.

“A certain sequence has to be followed. Anyone who spends time around boys will be amazed at how they change and the range of moods and energies which they show at different times,” he writes.

“The puzzle is to understand what is needed – and when.”

The mother and son relationship is thought to be one of the most difficult relationships there is.

When boys hit adolescence they are faced with rapid physical changes, emotional challenges and pressures from the world around them. Mums (and dads) provide boys with a secure base to live their lives from – somewhere where he feels loved, valued and accepted – despite the possible grunting and lack of enthusiasm.

Yet, adolescence is also a time boys start to drift from mum to other support networks – gaining independence and building relationships with peers and mentors as they engage in their “own” world. Some mums struggle with “letting go”, but need to understand the importance of this stage of their son’s development.

Growing Great Boys author Ian Grant says mums have the “great privilege” of influencing the next generation of men.

“Mothers can respect themselves enough to expect respect from their boys. They can surround them with optimism, faith and a sense that they are capable. They can teach them the practical skills they need to survive and, especially, they can look for the goodness in them and expect the best of them,” Grant writes.

Grant’s top tips to mums of boys include;

Boys need a mum who;

– is available to talk and sing and play
– expects the best of him, not the worst
– enables his sense of adventure and fun
– envisions a great future for him
– is consistent and persistent with discipline
– monitors the lines of good taste for him and teaches him to respect women
– listens
– allows him to take responsibility for himself

Happy Mothers’ Day everyone!