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What Can Parents Do about Fortnite?

Today’s blog is from Andrew McPeak. Andrew is a next gen researcher, speaker, and author for Growing Leaders.

A few weeks ago I was having dinner with some friends and their kids did something hilarious. These two young boys moved some furniture around in the dining room and started doing what could be only described as a series of strange dances. Some were dances that went along with old songs from the early 2000s, others I had seen on social media, and then there was the “floss.” If you haven’t already been flooded by images and videos of this dance, you should check out the strange performance on SNL that kicked off the sensation.

Strangely enough, what unites all of the dances that I saw that night is a cultural powerhouse called Fortnite. While it certainly includes funny dances, it is more notably known as “a king of the hill” style shoot-em-up game that kids, especially young boys, are addicted to. This game, turned cultural powerhouse, is prompting a lot of parents of teenage boys to ask themselves: What do we do about Fortnite?

Ninja

A few months ago ESPN magazine did something they’d never done before. For the first time ever, the cover athlete of their magazine wasn’t a tennis pro, quarterback, or soccer striker. It was a gamer. This electronic athlete—known as “Ninja”—is the most popular gamer in the world, and he rose to fame by live-streaming himself playing Fortnite. His viewers watch and pay him small amounts of money to get live shout-outs during his stream, leading him to make literally millions of dollars each year. As glamorous as this might sound, the article does a great job portraying both the ups and downs of being a famous gamer.

While the students in your life are far less likely to be famous gamers and far more likely to be doing strange dances from a video game in the living room, it’s worth noting that the same issues that Ninja faces are being faced by gamer-kids everywhere. Video game addiction is a becoming a real problem for parents the world over.

Kids playing games today binge for hours at a time, leading to lack of face-to-face social interaction, and missing out on important time for reading, studying, connecting with family, and especially sleep. Studies have now even shown that playing too many video games can be linked to both behavioral problems and unemployment. Despite all of this, actually getting your kid to see the value of turning it off can be difficult.

Four Reasons Kids Don’t Want to Turn Off Video Games

Kids today aren’t addicted to games just because they are fun. There is a real underlying sense of satisfaction that comes from playing games like Fortnite. The only problem is that video games satisfy these desires in artificial ways. I believe that if we want to help kids understand why they need to turn it off, we should first seek to understand why they turned it on in the first place. Once we understand each of these motivations, I want to talk about healthy ways to meet the need—without the screen.

1. Competition

For kids who want the thrill of competition without the effort of heavy physical activity, video games are the perfect solution. Lots of parents think kids are “wasting their life” on a video game, but a kid might think the very same thing when they see their dad watch football. Competition is a very normal desire, and that’s why the thrill of competition is a huge driver in the world of video games.

Healthier forms of competition to consider: family game nights, flag football games in the yard, joining a sports team, competing with others to raise money for a great non-profit.

2. Achievement

All video games take a user’s time and offer achievement in return. Each video game rewards players in different ways, but make no mistake, without achievement, video games would be nearly pointless for the vast majority of the kids who play. Achievements in the digital world can take the form of streaks, wins, badges, and even digital trophies—all of which are pretty meaningless—unless those things are assigned meaning by others. It’s pretty similar to having the high score on Frogger in an 80s video game cabinet. The best forms of achievements are those that are intrinsically valuable.

Healthier forms of achievement: weight loss, running a race, Spelling Bees, GPAs, Scholarships, making money on a job, setting a “doable” new year’s resolution and reaching it.

3. Risk

There is very little that can compare to the feeling you get when you are rushing to achieve an objective or avoiding some obstacle or enemy. Video games give their users the feeling of risk and reward often, which keeps players coming back for more. The games all invite players into something that is innate in all humans: survival. Risk is a great motivator and a powerful tool for development, but in the hands of a video game, the risk is all for naught.

Healthier forms of risk: Solving problems by yourself, learning to drive, rock climbing, overnight camping, performing arts; allowing a risky venture outside and at night.

4. Socialization

Only in the last decade did video games add this final and most attractive feature: socialization. Gamers find competition, achievement, and risk—all while chatting with their friends in real time. Socialization over the internet provides an opportunity for socially nervous kids to connect with others in a risk-free way. This form of socialization, however, is offered without the complexities of face-to-face interaction, and so it easily and often leads to bullying and other forms of anti-social behaviors inside of games.

Healthier forms of socialization: Meeting up with friends, family dinner, attending school clubs and events, or even identifying video games that are less violent and more productive and collaborative.


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4 Comments

  1. Randy Conley on January 15, 2019 at 9:42 am

    Hello Andrew,

    I appreciate the recommendations you provided for each of the four motivations as to why kids become addicted to video games. You could have just as easily substituted “athletics,” “work,” “church,” “school,” or any other of a number of activities that can become an obsessive behavior for kids. Some of those activities are deemed more socially acceptable than others which isn’t right. How many times do you see people complaining about the star athlete who spends hours everyday practicing her sport, competing on club teams on the weekend and school teams during the week, or attending endless showcase events or camps during the summer? Any activity that becomes obsessive and crowds out the well-rounded development of an individual is a problem to be addressed.

    Keep doing the great work you’re doing.

    Randy Conley

  2. […] post What Can Parents Do about Fortnite? appeared first on Growing […]

  3. Dustin on January 16, 2019 at 3:48 pm

    Agree with Randy Conley. The best development for a child is quality time with parents. Time for parents to take responsibility for their kids and set healthy boundaries around all activities…including school and athletics.Time for parents lead by example.

  4. K.D. on January 17, 2019 at 11:06 am

    I agree and disagree with previous comments. I agree nothing should be obsessed over and healthy balance is good, but will not put video games on that same level. The studies on how addictive screens are and how they affect and literally change the brain show alarming results I suggest every parent look into…and many parents report changes in their kids–moody, unable to figure out any other way to entertain themselves, anger when limits are set on the addiction and it affects how they interact with peers and parents. They don’t tire of video games as they will physical activity. It affects sleep negatively while physical and social encourage healthy sleep patterns which are crucial at this age–so much development going on in their sleep. It is also far more of a distraction in schools than sports. In fact, our kids in the baseball dugout had to have a rule to not discuss fortnite so they would focus on the game going on. So if my child were to “obsess” over church or playing outside with friends or gaga ball or sports…there are still healthy brain connections happening and opportunity for healthy social development, sportsmanship, bonding and physical activity. The video game addiction is a very different monster compared to healthy passions.

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