Caught in Fortnite craze
PARENTS and schools are struggling to manage the video-game phenomenon Fortnite, which is being linked to behavioural changes and aggressive outbursts in kids who become hooked on the multi-player battle craze. Primary schools are now complaining of an explosion in the number of kids — some as young as five — who are coming to school talking about the hours they spent playing the game the night before. Parents have said Fortn it eh as triggered uncharacteristically aggressive and violent outbursts from their children, as well as sparked family conflict when requests are made to turn the cartoonstyle shooting game off. Leading cyber safety expert and educator Susan McLean said Fortnite had the potential to take over some children, and primary school kids should not be allowed to play it. “It’s a ‘kill to win’ game and it is absolutely not suitable for anyone in primary school,” Ms McLean said.
“I get emails every week about schools in despair because they are witnessing violent behaviour and language in the acting out of the game.’’
Tasmanian Catholic Schools Parents Council Greg Boon said there had been concerns raised about Fortnite by some school principals.
He said information was sent home to warn parents about the game.
“Unfortunately the perception of some parents is that there is no blood or gore so [the game] is not an issue,” Mr Boon said.
“However, the aim of the game is to kill people and they can also be playing in an online community with people they don’t know.
“As with all games and apps we continually reinforce this through work in the classroom.”
He said there had also been articles in school newsletters urging parents to monitor their children’s playing of Fortnite at home.
Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg said he had “never seen a game so popular”.
He said schools had contacted him seeking advice because fights had erupted in class over online battles.
Dr Carr-Gregg said the secret to Fortnite’s unrivalled popularity was that it was free, available on both devices and video game consoles, and cleverly combined the best elements of shooter games, social media, and building and strategising games.
Australia’s eSafety Commissioner Julie Inman Grant said her research showed about 60 per cent of young Australians used multi-player video-games like Fortnite.
More alarming is that about 200,000 kids across the country are experiencing in-game bullying.
Ms Inman Grant said setting boundaries and mitigating the addictive nature of technology had become “the parenting challenge of our time”.
Hobart clinical psychologist Margaret Stoklosa said many screen activities could create problems for young people.
She urged parents to set limits early for children and ensure they were accepted.
“By the time they are 11 or 12 it’s incredibly difficult to change expectations, and this can lead to conflict in preteens and teens.”
Ms Stoklosa warned that children and young people who spent excessive amounts of time on screens could withdraw from social activities and from going outside.
“For kids whose social skills are delayed, this could further inhibit normal development.”
Cyber safety expert Leonie Smith said some game developers were actually studying addictive behaviours in humans and trying to implement some of those elements in their products. “They are studying, for example, gambling trends and they are implementing some of those aspects in games, like the element of almost being able to get up to the next level, and constantly adding new features,” she said.
But Lesley Podesta, chief executive of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation, said Fortnite was just another fad.
“This is the next generation of trend after Minecraft and fidget spinners, and just like them, it will have a lifespan,” she said.
The Tasmanian Education Department urged parents to check age ratings for games and adhere to those ratings.