What is Fortnite?
Description: One of the first and most successful “Battle Royale” games. The last one standing wins. The friends feature and in-game chat present risks.
The game is available on Xbox, PlayStation, PC, Mac, and the Switch. In 2020, Apple and Google removed Fortnite from their app stores due to a breach of terms – check out this article for more information. Fortnite remains one of the largest games played by kids, teens, and adults.
Their latest update brings back their original world players battle in. Marketing the nostalgic landscape as “Fortnite OG” – which has caused millions of players to get back into the game. Fortnite is as popular as it’s ever been. But remember, predators go where the kids are. Many video games are reaching an era where there is an abundance of kids, teens, and adults all together in the same space.
Compared to other shooters and Battle Royale games, Fortnite is rather cartoony and doesn’t have blood or gore.
Thankfully, Fortnite now has Parental Controls to help keep kids protected. We explain it all below!
How does Fortnite work?
Jump into a battle with 100 players and fight for the “#1 Victory!” This can be by yourself, or with a group of up to 4 players. Wins are displayed on your account, which fuels the desire to keep the number growing.
The game starts with the players flying in a school bus above an island. You can choose where you want to go and jump out! You start the match with a melee weapon of some kind (depending on the cosmetics you own) and have to find and loot guns, ammo, and other equipment and resources. These games last between 20-25 minutes, which is a big time investment for just one single match!
A “storm” will close in on the island, moving players to a specific location. As the storm closes in, the remaining players are forced to battle it out! Once there is only 1 player left, they win! If you die at any point, you are eliminated from the match.
Whether you win or lose, you don’t keep any of the items you gather during the match. Forcing you to start from scratch every time.
Brain Against the Game.
This phrase helps remind us why our kids might get addicted to games and get upset when they have to stop, or when they lose. Because video games are made to keep people playing! And our kid’s brains might not be able to stop themselves from taking the bait.
Fortnite can be very frustrating for some players. Your kid might spend 20 minutes running around in Fortnite, searching for resources, gathering weapons and ammo, fighting their way to the last player (out of 99 others!) – only to lose at the very end with nothing to show for it. It can be a very upsetting experience. They might even feel like they “wasted” all that time and energy because they didn’t win. These matches can get intense and very competitive, especially once there are only a few players left. And that’s why this game can be so hard to put down.
The battle royale genre fuels this mentality of playing until you win – almost like a slot machine. And once you do finally win, you’re so filled with dopamine, that you just want to win again and again and again… This is why you might hear a request to play “one more game” more than just once! Their brains can’t stop. This game, if left alone with a teen, has a strong potential to become addictive. In June 2018 (one year after Fortnite was released), the World Health Organization listed gaming addiction as a mental health concern for the very first time, recognizing its similarities with substance abuse.
Do a little reading about the amygdala – a tiny but significant part of the limbic system. For some children, theirs is too sensitive for this game. Consider this from Cleveland Clinic:
Your amygdala is a small part of your brain, but it has a big job. It’s a major processing center for emotions. It also links your emotions to many other brain abilities, especially memories, learning and your senses. When it doesn’t work as it should, it can cause or contribute to disruptive feelings and symptoms.
If your kid gets too upset when they lose, or can’t put it down when they need to, they might not be ready for this game. And that’s okay. If they enjoy their time regardless of winning or losing and are willing to stop in the middle of a match, they should be fine playing Fortnite – these behaviors show if they are in control of the game, or if the game is in control of them.
What else do Parents need to know about Fortnite?
Fortnite has a set of parental controls, please use them! Messaging and in-game chat are two of the biggest risks in Fortnite. You can disable these:
- In Fortnite, select the 3 lines in the top left of the screen
- Select “Parental Controls“
- You will need to link your email to the account and follow the on-screen instructions.
- Once you are set up, you can type in a 6-digit passcode to lock settings and enable parental controls.
- From here, you can disable in-game chat, disable messaging, require a passcode to add friends, and even see a weekly report.
You can enable most of these without using the specific parental controls feature, but they can be reversed. We highly recommend setting up parental controls and locking them in place. Be sure that you are using your child’s actual age for their account as well, this will add some built-in controls automatically.
For more info on setting up parental controls, please see Internetmatters’ post here.
In Game Purchases
Fortnite is free to play, but there are lots of ways to spend money once inside the game. Each season (which lasts about 2-3 months) has its own unique “Battle Pass” which lets users unlock specific cosmetics for their weapons and character during this time. Once a new season starts, you’ll have to buy a new Battle Pass if you want to earn the rewards. (There are free versions of the Battle Pass, but it’s not as cool). You can also select specific items in the store to purchase them individually. Fortnite’s in-game currency is called “V-Bucks” and they’re priced around $10 for 1,000 V-Bucks.
While there isn’t gore and blood, you are still collecting rifles, pistols, shotguns, sniper rifles, and rocket launchers to eliminate your enemy. However, when players are eliminated, they poof into a flash of lights instead of actually “dying.” Opposed to Call of Duty and other “first-person” shooters, Fortnite is a “third-person” shooter – meaning you take the perspective of being above your character (see the differences in the images below, Fortnite on the left, and Call of Duty on the right).
This means you aren’t staring at a gun on the screen as if you were holding it yourself and pointing at people, but you still see your character holding the weapon. It’s not very violent compared to other games, but you are still shooting other players to win.
This game offers specific emotions and dances you can perform while playing! It’s good fun but can be used disrespectfully in some situations – which can further the anger your child may experience when playing.
Twitch & YouTube
Many streamers and content creators play Fortnite competitively and for fun. Similar to Minecraft and Roblox, kids love watching Fortnite videos on Twitch and YouTube. A lot of the channels playing Fortnite are adults who swear or make crude jokes. Pay attention to who your kid is watching. Just because the game is rather clean, doesn’t mean the gamers are.
Fortnite is famous for including pop culture in their game. Spider-Man, John Wick, Marvel characters, Star Wars, Halo, you name it! They are always adding unique and rather relevant characters and themes into their game for limited amounts of time to keep users engaged.
This is a huge part of the risk. Yes, it’s fun to play by yourself, but you can also team up with a friend, or group of friends to compete as a team. If you don’t have friends to play with, you can make a team with strangers. As teamwork is needed to win these games, your kid might be talking to others online – and even if they aren’t, the strangers on their team might be talking to them. You can also request to be friends with people and continue playing more games together. Be sure to get those parental controls set and have brutally open discussions with your kids about who they should and shouldn’t be chatting with.
The Bottom Line: is Fortnite safe for Kids?
Here are five ways for you to evaluate Fortnite with your child:
- Play it yourself. And play it WITH your child! Yes, this is a condition of them being able to play it. You must experience it for yourself. Then decide if your child is ready.
- Parents, please hear me – some, maybe many young brains simply aren’t ready for the ridiculously addictive nature of Fortnite. The combination of friends, winning, and the digital credibility that comes from winning – it’s too much for some young brains (and its amygdala).
- Test their “adhesion” to the game by intentionally interrupting gameplay. And then see what happens. “Interrupting your kids” is one of the techniques we teach parents, explained further in this video (Instagram). Let them know that no matter when you need them, and you won’t abuse this technique, but if you need them, it doesn’t matter if they’re in the middle of a match. They leave the game and do what you ask. Or there’s a consequence. And if they do this well, then they can continue, because they’ve proven the game doesn’t control them.
- If you allow it, be sure to clearly define who is and isn’t a “friend” for gameplay. The definition of “friend” to an 11-year-old in 2023 is vastly different than what you think about from your childhood. Get those parental controls set up exactly how you want them (explained above).
- Ensure your child knows that wherever they’re playing the game, the device belongs to you, and that you can check their phone anytime (our “parent-led” ownership principle).
- Be sure your child knows exactly what to do if anything in the game makes them uncomfortable. Because they can always land safely and softly with you.
It’s refreshing to find a fairly clean game, but as shown by our list, Fortnite should not be considered lightly. Intentional, engaged, and informed parenting for the win!
What if I have more questions? How can I stay up to date?
Two actions you can take!
- Subscribe to our tech trends newsletter, the PYE Download. About every 3 weeks, we’ll share what’s new, what the PYE team is up to, and a message from Chris.
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