Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content

A Parent’s Guide to Fortnite, Gaming and Other Electronic Entertainment

Gaming and Electronic Devices

ming is a popular entertainment activity for children and adolescents, and games come and go so quickly it can be hard for parents to keep up. Currently, Fortnite is the video game dominating the national spotlight. It is one of the most (if not the most) frequently viewed and live-streamed game on the market. When new games make sudden leaps in popularity, parents also begin to have questions and concerns about them and how to best go about managing gaming and electronic entertainment with their kids.  

Fortnite is a survival, “open sandbox” (player customizable), and “cooperative” (players work together as teammates) game. Players can choose multiple modes, one of which is a single-player, group-elimination mode. The game combines the most popular feature of many multiplayer, “first-person shooter” games (e.g., Battlefield and Call of Duty) with an “open sandbox” design that allows players to roam freely collecting items and building in the field of play (think Minecraft). Games or matches are generally short, approximately the length of one or two brief YouTube videos.
Fortnite’s prominence has been elevated for a few reasons, including:

  • Portability across systems (PS4, Xbox, PC, and even smartphones)
  • Popularity of livestream gaming
  • It’s free to download and play, and players can purchase “passes” and “credits” that can be used for items and player customization.

You’ve probably noticed your child playing Fortnite or talking about it with friends. The game omits graphic content (blood and gore) but does use guns and other weapons. There are two important aspects of Fortnite that parents should be aware of:  

  • First, players can invite friends or randomly join groups during which they are able to communicate or talk with others through headsets. 
  • Second, the games have become quite competitive with prizes (often in the form of gear or in-game modifications) which are quite important to kids playing the game.

While Fortnite is trending, it is simply another immersive multiplayer game that parents should be aware of, and its use should be monitored as you would with any other electronic device or game. The recommendations for multiplayer communication/social gaming, screen use and availability, and total time allowed to play are the same for Fortnite as they are for any game or electronic entertainment.  

The American Academy of Pediatrics continues to recommend time limits of 2 hours or less per day on electronic media (TV, video games, phones, tablets, computers, etc.). However, on average, children and adolescents currently spend more than nine hours per day on interactive electronic devices for entertainment. For many children and adolescents, this represents substantially more time than what they would typically spend sleeping or for any other constructive activity during their day. This is why it’s important for parents to educate themselves and set rules and limits so kids can learn how to use electronic devices in responsible and healthy ways.   Here are some pointers and suggestions parents can use with respect to Fortnite and any other gaming or electronic entertainment activity your kids might use (now or in the future):

  • Model your expectations through your own behavior. Parents, too, are often consumed with social media, news, email, and the use of other applications that utilize interactive electronic devices. When you create and set boundaries regarding the use and amount of time children are allowed to spend on these devices, you are likely to get a more positive response and adherence to the boundaries when you model similar behavior and use.
  • Be aware of all screens. Keep in mind that Fortnite and other forms of electronic entertainment (other video games, social media, YouTube, etc.) are literally at your kids’ fingertips through their phones. Make sure you are aware of all the time they use and spend on them as the minutes and hours greatly add to their total daily digital diet. Create “zones” in your home that are always free of devices, especially in your children’s bedrooms and during family meals. Also, keep phones, TV’s, game systems, and computers stored and used in family areas. This helps you maintain awareness and reduces the chances of excessive use.
  • You are best served by allowing contingent access. The idea of “work before play” can be quickly abandoned during the hectic day-to-day schedules and struggles families are faced with. After walking in the door after a hard day’s work, parents still need to get or prepare dinner and transport kids to and from practices and other activities – it’s no wonder families are routinely stressed for time. This hectic pace can create what I call the “invisibility factor.” This means children and adolescents who are engaged or immersed in electronic activities are silent and easier to deal with as parents scurry to get things done. Given these challenges, it’s easy for a significant amount of time to pass before parents discover their kids have spent two or three hours on devices without first completing the required expectations and tasks (chores, homework, etc.) parents have previously identified for them to do. To combat this, parents should ensure that all necessary expectations and tasks are successfully completed prior to allowing children to access any device.
  • Don’t rely on your child’s or adolescent’s willpower. Keep in mind that all of these incredible devices and gaming systems have been engineered to capitalize and undermine our self-control – both for kids and adults. They are precisely designed to grab our attention in ways that affect our capacity to experience the passage of time. This is why “just a minute” is never really a minute. Expecting children to manage themselves only leads to frustration for parents and causes family conflict. I encourage parents to help their children by physically restricting or controlling key features of these devices (or even the device itself) when it is not allowed to be used or played with. You can change the default position of game controllers, phones, tablets, and keyboards so it requires kids to come to you and request access. This also provides you with a cue to check to see if the child’s other responsibilities and tasks have been successfully completed.
  • Hanging out “online” isn’t the same as “hanging out” in person. While many children and adolescents will tell their parents they are “talking” with friends, gaming and online activity should not be confused with real-world social interactions. It’s important to ensure your children spend time socializing and engaging in constructive real-world activities. Parents should balance the amount of time their children spend on electronic entertainment with other productive activities and play. It’s a good idea to require your children to spend an equivalent amount of time doing other activities prior to them using additional electronic time. You can track this by having kids show you how much time they’ve spent in other real-world activities before they are allowed to use electronic devices for a similar amount of time.
  • Focus on “do’s” rather than “don’ts.” For families with children or adolescents who are struggling with the amount time they spend on devices, gaming, or other electronic entertainment, it’s productive to change the discussion about them to “do’s” rather than “don’ts.” So, instead of getting upset and frustrated with your child for spending excessive amounts of time on devices and electronic entertainment, focus on requiring behavior that contributes to family engagement. For example, by requiring one hour of family time without electronic devices, you are also limiting total available time to devices and games. When the conversation is about what children can do versus what they can’t do, they are more likely to be agreeable to and follow the rules set down regarding device use and limits.