Is Your Child Addicted to Fortnite?

Five things every parent should know.
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Photo by Michael Maloney/Shutterstock.com

Four moms are standing by after a recent seminar I gave nervously waiting for a magic answer from me on how to handle their kid’s new drug, Fortnite.

“It’s all they talk about,” one mom says with an emotional tone in her voice.

“At first it was OK, but now they are quitting all their other activities. My oldest doesn’t even want to get his driver's license, let alone a summer job,” a mom of two boys said.

“What is he going to do all summer? Play Fortnite? What can I do?”

What parents are saying about Fortnite to justify their child’s play

  • It is just like a cartoon and there is no “real blood.”
  • He must play it if he wants any friends.
  • He will learn strategy skills.
  • It will develop his creativity.
  • It will get him engaged in computing which leads to science and engineering.

What parents need to know

1. Blood or no blood, “first-person shooter games, in which the killing of others is the central theme, are not appropriate for any child” says the American Academy of Pediatrics. Have you played Fortnite? Don’t bother with the trailer. Watch an actual teen play and see first hand what we’re talking about. Violence is violence and research tells us that when your child directs the violence himself, aggression is learned and rewarded and empathy is lost. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ policy statement on Virtual Violence. “Video games should not use human or other living targets or award points for killing, because this teaches children to associate pleasure and success with their ability to cause pain and suffering to others.” Need more info? Watch Lt. Colonel Dave Grossman discuss violent visual imagery in kids.

2. Online friends aren’t enough.  If your child’s only friends are in his Fortnite game, he is in trouble. Science tells us that in-person social connections are a must for teens. When social experiences move online, there is less practice with real connections.

3. Game skills don’t equal real-life skills. Deep down you know he needs to learn more strategy around his homework and cleaning his room than more strategy in a video game.

4. Game designers are not concerned about developing your child’s creativity.  Like rats in the research labs, your kids are reacting to a predetermined program and preset algorithm. They are not creating anything; the game designer already did that for them.

5. Gaming leads to gaming, not STEM development. Even seasoned gamers will easily admit that they are not becoming more interested in science or engineering. In fact, thanks to the pursusave design elements in today’s games, the more you play, the harder it is to get off. It is safe to say that playing more video games leads to playing more video games.

What a gaming addiction looks like

Is your child playing during school hours? Do you think he is playing on his phone, too? What about in the middle of the night, on the school bus, and every time he goes over to a friend’s house?

We don’t like to think that our kids can get addicted to gaming or to the point where they have to go to treatment centers. But the sobering truth is that 3 million kids have a gaming addiction.  

Take this quick overuse test:

  • Is it the only thing that puts him in a good mood?
  • Is he unhappy when he is forced to unplug?
  • Is his use increasing over time?
  • Is he sneaking around or lying to get more game time?
  • Is Fortnite interfering with family time, friendships or school work?
  • Does he game on a regular bases, i.e. every weekend?
  • Are all of his friends on Fortnite?

Or, take the quicker test:

  • Can your child list three things he likes as much or more than Fortnite? If he can’t, then he may not be balancing his time in a healthy way.

So how can a parent manage it? The short answer is, you can’t make the game less addictive. You can’t compete with the scientist who wrote the program. But you can step in, just like a good coach would, and adjust his schedule, so that he takes the  necessary time off. After all, it is just a game.

What to do next

You can try to limit his time, but if he is still playing at all, he may obsessed by just dreaming about the game and waiting for his next allotted time. If he has developed a true addiction to the game, which is very common, he will go through withdrawal. And if this is the case, you’ll need to go cold turkey.

Taking a break is your best option to reset his brain and his interests. Victoria Dunckley, M.D., shares a wonderful 4-week reset program in her book “Reset Your Child’s Brain.” Regardless of whether you think you are dealing with an addiction, it’s a great plan for making the break. You will find that partnering with another family to take a month off together is a big help along with planning other activities for a month away from the game.  

Summer is coming, and you’ll want to keep a sharp eye on this habit before it gets out of control. A summer full of Fortnite is not exactly a dream come true.


Visit us at FamiliesManagingMedia.com for more information on video game addiction, the warning signs and how to reclaim your kids.