Fortnite: Battle Royale
Is Fortnite Safe for my Middle School Son or Daughter?
This is a common question! You know your kids best and so please read the pros (many) and cons (just a few) and I think you’ll have enough information to make a decision. Overall, we believe that answer is “maybe,” depending on how quickly your son or daughter seems to become addictive to games. Enjoy our review!
updated February 8, 2021
What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Description: It’s Hunger Games crossed with Call of Duty, just without any of the blood and gore. Kids and adults can’t put it down. Released summer 2017, it recently surpassed Minecraft, the king of streaming game play videos, in # of YouTube videos uploaded in a single month and reached 1 billion YouTube video views in only five months.
TheGuardian.com provides a wonderful description of the game here:
In short, it’s a mass online brawl where 100 players leap out of a plane on to a small island and then fight each other until only one is left. Hidden around the island are weapons and items, including crossbows, rifles and grenade launchers, and players must arm themselves while exploring the landscape and buildings. It’s also possible to collect resources that allow you to build structures where you can hide or defend yourself. As the match progresses, the playable area of land is continually reduced, so participants are forced closer and closer together. The last survivor is the winner.
The game is available on Xbox One, Playstation 4, PC, Mac, and mobile devices (in 2020, the Apple App Store and Google Play removed Fortnite from their app stores due to a breach of terms – check out this article for more information). The existence of a mobile version and its huge popularity with kids is why we’re writing about it at Protect Young Eyes (since we don’t often write about gaming apps unless they’re massive).
Corporate website: https://www.epicgames.com/fortnite
APP Store rating: 12+
What do parents need to know about Fortnite?
It’s a free game! But, see “In-app purchases” below.
Low violence. Ok, if you think Looney Toons is too violent for your kids, then Fortnite isn’t for you, but compared to most popular battle games, this is tame. Eliminated players quickly evaporate from the screen in a bright flash.
Fun! Dancing! Silliness! This game has all of those things! In a battle game? Yes! This is part of its cult-like appeal. Popular game streamers play competitively and are simultaneously entertaining their viewers, making it the most watched game on popular game streaming service, Twitch.
Social interaction. This is a huge part of the draw. Yes, it’s fun to play to win, but you can also team up with a friend, or group of friends at a sleepover, and compete as a team. Participants can chat using headsets and microphones.
In-app purchases? You bet. But, not for the reasons you might think in a battle game. Purchasing a Premium Battle Pass using 950 in-game V-Bucks (Fortnite’s currency) allows tiered access to game swag and in-game cosmetic improvements (skins/outfits). These passes are available for a season (Season 3 is happening right now) and then you need to purchase another one – genius! And, with new and exciting new loot released each season, kids will want to purchase (around $10 for 1,000 V-Bucks).
Is Fortnite addictive? For some kids, they just stop playing. Yes, we hear that often. It’s the 2018 version of Minecraft. At least with Minecraft, we could justify game time with the oft-quoted parental statement, “It’s like digital Legos – they’re practicing shapes and engineering!” (Yeah, right!). If playing the game on an Xbox, Playstation, or PC, parents can enable time controls on each device (check out PYE’s write-ups under DEVICES in the menu). Each rumble lasts 20 minutes, so keep that in mind when managing screen time. A quote from one high school teacher:
“From a high school teacher’s perspective, this game is keeping some teens up all night. Make sure you have time restraints and kids who can put it down. There are kids turning the corner towards an unhealthy addiction for Fortnite.”
Related post: Screen Time & Kids – 5 Recommendations
Can kids chat with other players? Yes, there’s an in-game chat feature for iOS/mobile gamers. This increases the risk profile of the mobile version of the game slightly, until we see if it also comes with some ability to turn off the chat. There is a chat feature for the Xbox, Playstation, PC, and Mac versions, which make the game riskier on those platforms. (As of November 2020) PC, PS4, and PS5 users can now use Houseparty to video chat while playing Fortnite. Epic acquired Houseparty last year and has made the leap to integrate the two. Parents can toggle off the feature in Fortnite’s settings.
Can Fortnite chat be turned off (non-mobile instructions)? Yes. Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main Fortnite page by selecting the three bars, then the gear icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can turn off voice chat by tapping the arrows.
Does Fortnite have profanity? Kids might be tempted to head to YouTube and search for Fortnite game play videos, just like they did for Minecraft. Just beware of profanity used by gamers in these videos. The game might be clean, but the gamers might not be.
The bottom line: is Fortnite safe?
Due to the cartoon violence and the ability to chat with strangers (now also on mobile), there are some concerns. Upper middle school could be an appropriate age, if the child is well monitored. Parents will want to watch screen time and kids sneaking away with devices in order to squeeze in one more match. This game, if left alone with a teen, has strong potential to become addictive. Note that in June 2018, the World Health Organization listed gaming addiction as a mental health concern for the very first time, recognizing its similarities with substance abuse.
Related post: WHO Recognizes Gaming Disorder as Mental Health Concern
It’s actually refreshing to find a game that is fairly clean but parents will need to determine if even the cartoon violence might still be too much for their liking.
Now What? Have you Heard of Bark?
Are you interested in having greater insight into the social media platforms that your kids are using? Bark is one of the best platforms we’ve tested. If your kid is using social media, then they need Bark. We trust them and we think you should, too!
*There may be affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!