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: https://www.esafety.gov.au/
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