You have probably heard about Fortnite, how could you not have? While players love it, parents may be less than enthusiastic. There have been numerous reports of parents discovering their children are being groomed, and the finger is being pointed at Fortnite. Understandably, there are concerns about the game and its effect on younger players. So what exactly is Fortnite? And is there anything to worry about?
What is Fortnite?
What we’re really talking about here is Fortnite: Battle Royale, which is the game’s most popular mode and, more importantly, it’s free. It’s a multiplayer third-person shooting battle that pits 100 people against each other, and the last player standing wins. You can choose to fight solo, or link up with other players in squads in search of that all-too-often elusive victory.Fortnite is also cross-platform, which means that PC players of the game can play in the same arena as an Xbox, PlayStation and Nintendo Switch player. This of course open the game up to a huge volume of players, from across all the major gaming platforms.
What do you have to worry about?
There are currently over 400 million players worldwide, and that number is increasing daily. The game itself is rated PEGI 12 in the UK, so although there is fighting, shooting and death, the violence is far more cartoon-based, and there is no blood or gore as seen in other multiplayer combat games. There are also plenty of characters, costumes and other collectibles that will reach out to the younger gamer.
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The age rating is not where the problems with Fortnite lie. Battle Royale is essentially a room of 100 strangers. While the majority of Fortnite’s players aren’t there under false pretences, there have been some reported cases of grooming through the game. It is mostly happening through voice chat. There’s also concern for some parents of the openness of the players.
As you can imagine, when the game play heats up, there can be some choice words thrown around, which then come in contact with young ears. While most children of 12 are familiar with colourful language on the playground, they might not be used to those words being directed at themselves. Your child may be incredible at the game, and be able to whittle his or her opponents down the last few players. In turn, this could lead to a lot of abuse being directed toward them from other players.
Speak to Your Children About It
Shutting off voice chat and restricting game time will only get you so far. In fact, all the parental controls in the world will only be effective as long as your child doesn’t find a way around them, which they probably will. Most smartphones and tablets have a Fortnite app. Moderating gaming in the past was easier: there was a family computer, and the advice was to keep it in the living room so you could supervise your child’s online activity. Now you can access the internet through smartphones, tablets and consoles. Social media is an everyday thing, and as a result your children may be coming into contact with total strangers every day.
The best advice offered by experts is sit with your child, find out what they’re playing and who they are playing with. Watch what’s going on and listen to the in-game chat. Watching someone else play a video game is the most effective way to find out what’s going on. Plus, it gives you a better understanding of what you can accept as tolerable behaviour online. Obviously, you can still insist that your child doesn’t add anyone as an in-game friend on Xbox Live, PSN or Fortnite’s develop, Epic Games, that they don’t know in real life, keeping it to friends and family etc.
If you or your child do come across abusive players, you can report them. If you have enabled cross platform playing, they may be on a different gaming system, so you will need to take it up with Epic Games. You can report abusive behaviour in-game (there’s a report player button) or by sending their name directly.
What can You do to help?
There are a few strategies you can try out to help safeguard your children when playing Fortnite, or any other game for that matter. Such as limited play or a complete ban but the best option is use the various parental controls on the platforms that you can play Fortnite on.
Activate parental controls on Xbox – Log into your Microsoft account at https://account.microsoft.com/family. If your child is already listed as part of your family, you will be able to set screen time limits from there; if not, you will have to add them to your family first by following the on-screen instructions.
Activate parental controls on PlayStation – On the console, go to Settings >Parental Controls/Family Management >Family Management. You’ll be able to set time limits, or view your child’s total playing time for the day. You can also access controls through https://www.playstation.com/acct/family.
Activate parental controls on the Nintendo Switch – The Switch has an app for parental controls, imaginatively titled Nintendo Switch Parental Controls. You sign into the app with the same Nintendo account you use on the Switch, and once you are all set up, you can limit play.
Activate parental controls on iOS – If your child’s iCloud account is part of your Apple family account, you can set screen time restrictions from your own iPhone. Go to Settings>Apple ID>Family Sharing and select your child’s account. Then select Screen Time. You can set limits for categories of apps – in this case, it’s games – and customise it for each day of the week.
Activate Controls in Game – You can also restrict access via the game itself, go to Settings > Audio and switch Voice Chat to off. Other players won’t be able to hear your child, and you will no longer hear other players. The global messaging in the lobby areas of the game can be disabled in the settings menu under Messaging.
In summary – Be open with your child and let them know you are there for them when you are needed. By educating them about what online interaction is correct and what is wrong and then making yourself open to them, should they encounter the latter, is a great way to keep your child safe. Alternatively why not pick up a joypad and play with them?