Fortnite is an incredibly popular game among teens and preteens. It’s also powerfully engaging, to the point where many kids are obsessed with Fortnite, and playing Fortnite is all they want to do and talk about. Fortnite has become an obsession for many kids, and parents have begun to ask me how to help a child obsessed with Fortnite.
I recently had a conversation with a fourth-grade teacher who described the conversations about Fortnite taking place in his classroom. He observed that many of his students seem to be obsessed with Fortnite, and spend most of their free time talking with each other about their Fortnite adventures. Those kids who did not play – fortunately, some parents think that Fortnite is inappropriate for 10-year-olds – felt left out. The teacher told me that there were some kids who were not attending to classroom assignments because they were so busy thinking about Fortnite and what they would do later in the day when they got home to play.
I have some concerns about kids getting obsessed with Fortnite. Not only are many fourth-graders and younger kids playing a game such as Fortnite, but they are also spending portions of the day dwelling about their Fortnite adventures. A small minority of these kids may be showing signs of video-game addiction such as intense preoccupation, withdrawal symptoms, a need to spend increasing amounts of time playing the game, and a loss of interest in previous hobbies and activities. However, most of these kids are simply overly engaged with the game and ruminating about their gameplay. This is reinforced by many peers who share a similar interest, some of which promotes a connection among classmates. I have also observed that these difficulties are particularly problematic in my patients diagnosed with ADHD, Autism, Learning Disabilities, Executive Functioning problems, Anxiety, or Depression.
Fortunately, most of these types of preteen obsessions with video games or other popular culture are short-lived. At some point soon there will be another popular game, technology, or activity to which kids currently obsessed with Fortnite will be drawn, and their obsession will navigate to another interest. In the meantime, there are strategies that parents can use to help minimize children’s obsession with Fortnite.
Here are some ways to help a child obsessed with Fortnite:
- Put aside time, money, and energy to foster other engaging interests such as getting your child to a local swimming pool to take lessons or having him become involved in a robotics class with one of his friends.
- Leverage his obsession with Fortnite into an interest in other related topics. For example, encourage him to read The Hunger Games or other dystopian novels. Help him to learn about other types of forts and castles that were built to protect people in medieval years. Consider a book such as the Medieval Fortress: Castles, Forts, and Walled Cities of the Middle Ages.
- Expect and require that your child spend time outdoors on a daily basis away from screens. Help him to use some of this time to get regular exercise.
- Have limits on the amount of time your child is able to play Fortnite. I suggest having a one-on-one conversation about this topic. You might be surprised at what you hear when your are listening rather than being confrontational. I have talked to a few kids who are obsessed with Fortnite who on their own recognized that they were spending too much of their time and energy in the game. Your child might actually like it if you jointly set some limits. Allow him to have some flexibility for playing a bit more on weekends or when he is face-to-face with friends. Most of all, praise him for his insight and effort to change his behavior.
Photo courtesy of Marco