Forbearance while playing Fortnite

The highly sophisticated – and to some, highly addictive – video game requires parents to be more sophisticated in how they guide their kids to interact with Fortnite’s newest versions.

A 10-year-old plays one of the online "Fortnite" games in the early morning hours in the basement of his Chicago home.

Fortnite is fun. Really, really fun. For many children and adults who play it for long periods, however, the fun can turn into a spell.

The video game’s most popular form, called Fortnite: Battle Royale, is almost addictive, according to media reports. More than three million people are playing the multiplayer game at any given time. The new version offers more entertaining challenges and intriguing plots that entice participants to play on and on.

In Fortnite: Battle Royale, up to 100 competitors (or teams) race around an island finding weapons and defensive materials. They battle each other until a single winner remains. Though the game is free to download and play, more than two-thirds of players spend real-world money – an average of more than $80 each – to buy helpful or fun in-game items, including showy clothing or dance moves. Such purchases may compel a player to keep playing.

News of famous people such as pro baseball players becoming obsessed with the game are now common. Cautionary tales are circulating about children dodging homework or becoming sullen, angry, or even violent if asked to stop playing. Last year, the World Health Organization placed “gaming disorder” caused by video games in general on its list of official afflictions.

Yet plenty of children do not fall into this trap. Wise and caring parents who maintain good communication with their kids shouldn’t see the game as necessarily evil. Playing it can develop helpful skills such as cooperation, team building, and self-confidence. It can provide opportunities to feel successful and skillful in completing difficult challenges. Children may even make friends based on a common love for the game.

If parents do have concerns, what can they do? Taking away access to a digital device altogether is not necessarily the answer. A child probably needs it for homework and other worthwhile activities. One route is to limit playing time. Parents can also express interest in the game, ask questions about it, and then guide a child’s interaction in the moment.

Parents can also loop in a child or teen to the rule-making process. Children might be reminded well ahead of time that the absolute stopping time is coming. That can help them use their own planning abilities to bring a session to a satisfying conclusion.

Another route is to provide attractive alternatives to video-gaming. Getting outside to play or explore the natural world, for example, has a pleasure all its own. Experiences in real life can be fun. Really, really fun.

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