Caught in Fort­nite craze

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - LAUREN MARTYN-JONES and ANNE MATHER

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.

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