Dear Fortnite Parents: 5 Recommendations for Setting Good Boundaries

Released in 2017 by Epic Games, Fortnite has moved beyond the gaming space and into the pulse of the culture at large. Its impact is hard to overstate. When Thor is playing your video game in the movie Avengers Endgame it’s a good sign that you’ve “made it.”

Along with the throngs of hyped children come throngs of anxious parents and guardians. Nothing in recent memory triggers “pearl-clutching” quite like hearing your child say “I play Fortnite.” The addictive qualities of the game are well documented and the modern news landscape is playing up the hysteria because it’s what they do.

Fortnite is an ever evolving game that’s constantly updated, changed and tweaked. For that reason the parental tips that existed even six months ago can become obsolete. This creates double anxiety for parents/guardians as they struggle to keep up with a game that was never part of their own childhood and feels especially foreign.

In the midst of this jungle I wanted to offer some hope. So here’s a machete. These tips can (I believe) help you hack through some anxiety and give you a set of real world tools to use. I’m obviously a proponent of boundary setting but if you understand the intricacies of the game you can create a dialogue with your child that won’t end with them smashing their gaming system and breaking your TV.

1. Understanding the Objectives of Epic Games

I was able to speak with a few Fortnite reps at the E3 Gaming convention in LA and the goals of the company are obviously ambitious. In 2017 Fortnite was just a video game. A year later Fortnite became a “Game with Social Media Elements.” Now the goal is a full on Social Network wired into the space of their game.

Many younger players are using Fortnite simply as a “way to hang out with friends.” We’ve now reached a phase where the game itself is almost secondary to the networking elements. Fortnite doesn’t see its competition as other video games. It sees its competition as Facebook. At E3 we saw several examples of young players using Fortnite as a platform to share songs with each other or even simply talk about their day.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR PARENTS/GUARDIANS

Fortnite truly is this generations version of “hanging out in your friends basement after school.”

As a parent/guardian trying to set boundaries, ask your child when the majority of their friends are on. A two-hour block of Fortnite time is essentially useless to a child when none of their peers are logged on. Work with them to maximize the limited Fortnite time they’re given. If you can keep them playing with their peers you’ll limit the time they’re playing with strangers. Also, you’ll be giving them some autonomy and authority over the Fortnite boundaries which will make them part of the decision process.

2. Learn the Game Modes

Fortnite is divided into three major game modes.

FORTNITE: BATTLE ROYALE – This is the most popular phase of the game. 100 players from across the world are dropped onto an island and compete in a last man standing scenario. I’d describe this as “cartoon violence.” The characters do fire weapons at each other but there’s no blood or gore, and the animations aren’t super-realistic. The matches can last less than five minutes or upwards of forty minutes if the player lasts a long time.

FORTNITE: SAVE THE WORLD – In this mode a small team of players builds and defends a fort area from incoming waves of zombie attackers. The zombies are computer controlled NPC’s (non-playable characters) and come in waves.

FORTNITE: CREATIVE – In this mode you’re given full control of the environment. You can build bases and even create obstacle courses for your friends to run. There’s some great creativity that can be shown off in this mode and several websites even show off the most impressive creations.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR PARENTS/GUARDIANS

Kids are clever and they know when they’re talking over their parents heads. If you show some knowledge about the world they’re interacting in they’ll be clued in that you’re actively researching their hobbies. It’ll make boundary setting a lot easier. Casually mention to your kid “Wow I saw this great build in Fortnite Creative the other day.” Their heads will explode AND they’ll realize their parent/guardian is educated on their hobbies.

3. If You’re Child Uses the Money Excuse

There are two main ways to make money via Fortnite. The traditional competitive route where you can join established teams/leagues/tournaments, and making money via streaming.

Again, kids are clever and many of them convince their parents if they get more play time they can actually make money. It’ll help if you understand the reality of their argument.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN

Rather than telling them how unrealistic their dream is, ask them what concrete steps they’ve taken. Ask them what local tournaments they’ve looked at or considered entering. Also, feel free to ask them “Is this a real dream of yours or are you just trying to get more play time?” They’ll of course swear that it’s a real dream.

Much like professional sports, it’s roughly the top 1% of the top 1% that can actually get a financial return from playing a video game. And one important lesson your child probably hasn’t learned yet, Hobbies that turn into a business are no longer hobbies, they’re now work.

4. Learn Fortnite Parental Controls

It’s shocking to me how many parents/guardians don’t realize that Fortnite has a set of parental controls. They don’t solve every problem but you should educate yourself on them. Here’s how to engage them.

Create a free account on Epic Games Website

Turn on Fortnite. From the lobby, access the Menu in the top left

Choose “Parental Controls”

From here, you’ll create a 6-digit code which will be the code you’ll use to change or delete your settings.

In this menu you’ll be able to turn off vulgar language in the chat function, hide your username from other players, and even completely turn off the voice-chat function of the game.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN

I want to be clear here. It is very possible for your child to build a strong community of peers via Fortnite. I’ve seen it happen. The darker elements of Fortnite are no different than any other internet outlet. They exist because there’s little to no monitoring actively happening.

5. Learn Your Child’s Cell Phone

Fortnite is a cross-platform game. That means it can be accessed and played across a giant variety of platforms. Limiting your child’s access to a gaming console isn’t quite enough with a game like this one. You’ll need to set up another set of parental controls that cover your kids cell device if you really want to have firm control. The younger the player is, the more likely they are to access Fortnite via a mobile device. Even if they don’t have the Fortnite game ap they can still get hours of Fortnite footage via YouTube, Twitch, Mixr, or other streaming apps.

WHAT THIS MEANS FOR THE PARENT/GUARDIAN

Not to be overly technical, but some self-education is required. With a game as expansive as Fortnite you’ll need to educate yourself not only on the game but also on the all the platforms your child is using. You can limit their console time all you want but if they have a mobile device they can still get plenty of Fortnite.

Nathan is the co-host of the Splash Damage Bros. Podcast on iTunes/Spotify, and wherever you get your podcasts. @thenatejc @splashdamagebro

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