By Rachel Hoeing
For the past year, the game of Fortnite has been a thorn in my side. I have a 15 year-old son, and this video game has brought unto us a constant argument of when he can play, how long he can play, etc. The school year was tough as we endured many verbal battles, but we finally agreed upon Fortnite time only on the weekends, and the amount of time spent playing depended upon grades and respect toward parents. As summer got closer, I decided we would lighten up a little bit since he did secure a summer job and is also involved with summer swimming. Fortnite would be a good way to spend some downtime while keeping things balanced.
After allowing him to play a decent amount over the past month, I have realized that it’s not all that bad. Yes, I could easily come up with a list of 10 reasons why I hate the game, including the fact that it’s addictive, it’s based on shooting others, kids can seclude themselves, it can definitely amp up a kid’s attitude, etc. But I feel like times are changing and I, in turn, need to look at this realistically. In three more years my kid won’t be under my roof anymore, and he’ll have all the time in the world to play any video game he wants. I want to teach him balance while I have him here.
I’m sure parents of generations past had the same doubts and fears when the television came out, arcade games, the VCR, MTV, Nintendo, etc. We all fear the worst. But my thinking lately with Fortnite is that my son is old enough, social enough, and active enough to handle playing this game without it hindering any of these aspects of his life. (For now anyway. I never say never!) So, I decided to look at the positive side of Fortnite and came up with the list below. I hope it helps some of you to feel a little better about the time your child might be spending playing this game.
1. You Hear Your Child Laughing – Most of us with teens and tweens are pretty used to grouchy-ness, eye rolling, and attitudes. It’s tough when the kid who was so happy all the time seems to sulk around the house. It’s hormones, and stats have proven time and time again that this too, shall pass, but in the meantime, it is so heart-warming to hear genuine laughter coming from my son as he plays this game with his friends. He told me about how his “squad” hid in a tree the other night and were undetectable for quite some time. He and his friends had the best time laughing and enjoying the game.
2. They Practice Teamwork – Piggy-backing on my comment above, your child can bond with friends by forming teams and working together. They have to practice communication skills as they navigate the game. Sometimes my son will play with friends in the same room in our home, but sometimes they are each in their own homes and they must really pay attention to what others are saying in order to work together and succeed.
3. It’s a Great Topic of Conversation – Ever sat with a teenager who only grunts and groans answers to questions? If they are a Fortnite player, all you have to do is say the word and you’ll hear a 15 minute dissertation about the game, successes they have had, how they play, etc. Teens will talk when it’s a topic they enjoy, so give it a try! Even better – sit next to them during their next “battle.” One of my friends told me that he sits with his 13-year-old quite a bit while he plays because it’s a great way to bond with him. My son also told me he played a game the other day with an entire family! (Mom, Dad, son and daughter were all chiming in through their headsets and having a great time playing together.)
4. It’s Excellent Leverage – Need your car washed? The dog walked? Dishwasher emptied? Let your child earn Fortnite time in exchange for chores. Works like a charm! Back to our family’s agreement from the school year – it was also valuable leverage when it came to respect toward parents. I witnessed my son bite his tongue so many times because he knew a word of disrespect would end with a loss of video game time.
5. You Know Exactly Where Your Child Is – He’s not drinking and driving. He’s not vandalizing a school. He’s not beating up the kid down the street. He’s in the next room on the XBox. I’ll take the latter.
6. Critical Thinking Skills – Once I actually tried to understand the game, I realized that it really does help kids with their thinking skills. They have to outwit, outlast, and outsmart all the other players. (Yes, I copied that line from Survivor.) They have to plan ahead and think outside the box. It takes some smarts!
7. No Arguing with Siblings – This can go two ways – in my house, when my son is on XBox, that means he is not tormenting his sister. He usually defaults to sister tormenting as his favorite pastime, but Fortnite can easily take the place of this! In the case of one of my friends, she has two sons who love playing XBox together. She claimed it is one of her favorite times because she loves hearing them laugh and bond.
8. Connecting with New and Old Friends – My son is currently playing games with our best bud who moved to California, my cousin in PA, and a new buddy, Elliot, who he found because of their similar skill levels. They are on opposite sides of the country, but have bonded and always look for each other when they log on! Yes, I know it’s difficult to grasp this “virtual friends” thing for those of us who did not grow up in an era where we could connect online, but the world is changing. People find spouses now through dating websites. Moms find best friends by talking in chat rooms and Facebook pages. And, our kids are going to make friends by connecting through video games. I think it is such a cool thing to stay connected to their family & friends who live far away. (Please talk to your kids about how to connect with others, predator dangers, not giving out personal info, etc. This article shares great info.)
9. It’s Free – As with most things, you can of course get upgrades and extras by paying, but as a basic game, Fortnite is free fun!
10. It Might Be Something In Which Your Kid Excels – Not every child is an MVP of their sports team. Not every kid is a top scholar. Not every kid is musically inclined. Not every kid is cut out for leadership. For the ones who don’t have these aforementioned talents, how great does it feel to them to win a Fortnite game and finally find their niche? There’s no greater feeling.
OK, I’m braced. I’m ready. Let me have it – yell at me because I’m damaging my teen by letting him play these games. (Actually please don’t – let’s talk rationally!) Each family has to make the decisions that are best for their children because every child and every situation is different. Again, I know there are downfalls, but I hope some of my points today will resonate with you if you are on the fence with this game. But most of all, I hope this will help end a long string of arguments and create a happier atmosphere in your home like it did in mine.
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