What parents need to know about Fortnite

What is it?

Fortnite is an online video game developed by Epic Games and released in 2017. It is available in three game modes: Fortnite: Save the World (players fight with zombie-like creatures and defend objects with fortifications they can build), Fortnite Battle Royale (up to 100 players fight to be the last person standing) and Fortnite Creative (players create worlds and battle arenas).

The game is free and available on most gaming platforms.

Fortnite Battle Royale is a worldwide cultural phenomenon. It has managed to attract more than 125 million players in less than a year and has brought hundreds of millions of dollars per month to the developer. In March 2019, 250 million players were registered on Fortnite. Nearly two-thirds of the players are between 18 and 24 years old, and more than 20% admitted spending more than 16 hours a week gaming.

Is it suitable for children?

The game is rated 12+ and although there is fighting, shooting and people dying, the violence is cartoon-like and there is no blood, screaming or signs of pain and injury. The player’s health bar simply goes down. Costumes abound (skins with crazy names: Shadow Ops, Tomato Head, Crackabella, etc.), as well as flying buses, gliders, dance moves and other elements that make it a fantasy game.

But that doesn’t mean that the game is totally harmless. Here are some parameters to consider:

Screen time – The game is so addictive that no amount of reasonable screen time will be deemed sufficient. According to a Common Sense / SurveyMonkey survey, about one in five parents say it is difficult to get children out of the game.

Open chat for strangers – Voice chat is an essential part of the game. When players play as a team, they can communicate within the team. If voice chat is enabled, any new person will automatically be able to chat with your child. This exposes children to online predators, hackers and stalkers.

Strong emotions – Things can get pretty intense in the game, causing children to experience stress or rage about losing, and this affects them even after the game is over.

Cost of in-game purchases – Fortnite uses a game currency called V-bucks that can be bought with real money and used to buy special items in the game shop. 68.8% of Fortnite players have made a Fortnite purchase in the application and the average amount spent is $84.67.

Scammers and fraudsters – In 2019, a security warning was issued for all Fortnite players when a malicious hacker named “Syrk” promised to help them win, but actually stole their data and money. Greedy V-Bucks scammers try to lure people by offering them “V-Cash generators” and fake coupons in exchange for personal information, credit card numbers or advertising clicks that generate revenue. There are currently more than 4,770 live domains dedicated to Fortnite scams; 1,390 YouTube videos advertising malicious links with millions of views combined; and hundreds of social network links every day that lead to fraudulent destinations.

How to protect children on Fortnite

Control the playing time. The American Academy of Paediatrics recommends that children and adolescents should not interact with entertainment media for more than 1 to 2 hours a day, depending on their age.
Protect their privacy. Access the game settings, click on “Privacy: Public” and change to “Privacy: Friends” or “Privacy: Private”. This way, children only play with people they know.
Never reveal the location. Teach your child to never tell anyone online where they live or agree to meet someone they only know through play.
Monitor their conversation – Keep an ear out for inappropriate communication and to find out who they are playing with.
Tell them about hackers and scammers and what is too good to be true.
Protect your credit card information. Add an extra layer of protection for this data or talk to your child so that he or she always asks permission before buying anything. That way, you won’t end up spending your holiday budget on wild dance moves!

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