Parents are becoming very concerned that their kids are addicted to Fortnite. Yes, there are some addictive qualities to how kids play Fortnite, but most simply play too much. The vast majority of these kids are more similar to my 13-year-old patient who told me that he “used to play.” When asked why he stopped, he told me that it was boring. He reported that he had 100 wins and then it got repetitive. He also did not want to spend any money on Battle Pass to purchase skins (uniforms that distinguish players) and new “dances” to celebrate victories. This teenager eventually had too much Fortnite, but I have found that there are many kids who might aptly be described as “infected” with Fortnite. These kids become obsessed with the game, think about it constantly, and base too much of their identity on being an expert Fortnite player.
I have talked to many kids who love to play Fortnite, but my observations are based upon a limited sample of kids who have attention, learning, and social-emotional difficulties. As a result, my concerns may apply more to kids with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Learning Disabilities, Executive Functioning Disorders, Anxiety, and Depression than to typically developing children. I find that many of these kids are prone to become “infected” by the intense level of stimulation of Fortnite, more than other sandbox games such as Minecraft. The intensity, risk, and level of focus required in Fortnite, may be an experience that draws them back into the game, particularly kids with ADHD. Many kids with ADHD cannot experience this level of aliveness and engagement in other video games, much less in daily activities such as school and family life. The same things that draw many kids with ADHD to extreme sports such as snowboarding, surfing, skateboarding, and BMX bike riding may be at work in their infection with Fortnite.
If this is the case, it provides a roadmap to helping kids with ADHD, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Anxiety, Depression, Learning Disabilities, and Executive Functioning Disorders relieve their infection with Fortnite.
Here is what to do if your child is infected with Fortnite:
Encourage dangerous outdoor activities. Highly stimulating, risky, on the edge of your seat activities may give kids a dopamine rush that helps keep them engaged. High risk, legal, and healthy activities may draw your child away from screens in general and games such as Fortnite specifically.
Play highly competitive, aggressive games. Get your child involved in sports that can involve a lot of competition that sometimes spills over to physical play. Games such as hockey, lacrosse, field hockey, football, soccer, boxing, and wrestling are good places to start.
Make it scary. Kids who are risk seekers often like scary movies, suspenseful books, and exploration of new places where there is an element of danger. Here are some scary movies, frightening games, and spooky books that are suitable for kids who like to be scared.
This article is one of a series of posts about Fortnite. In the past month I’ve been approached by many new services, including Fox News.com, WBZ radio, and Bloomberg News, to provide an expert opinion about the pros and cons of children playing Fortnite. My basic message has been that Fortnite is inappropriate for children under the age of 13, as it is built in a way that can encourage overuse or, in rare cases, even addiction to the game. However, it can also provide opportunities for developing skills such as planning, organization, flexibility, problem-solving, and collaboration. At the same time, I have a sense of discomfort with the storyline of Fortnite, where the objective of the popular Battle Royale game is to kill everyone so that only you survive. This one-for-all motive in the game promotes a selfishness and lack of empathy for others that permeates our societal and political environment.