Fortnite: What Parents Need To Know
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Fortnite: Battle Royale is a free, multiplayer game that is incredibly popular with students. The concept of the game is simple - the last player to survive the battle wins. But this isn't a traditional war game. Fortnite Battle Royale is set in a colorful, surreal world where players can dress their avatars up in silly costumes, dance, and have fun while trying to survive.
Epic’s Fortnite has more than 350 million registered players, the game developer announced [in May 2020]. That makes the free-to-play Battle Royale game one of the most popular titles ever made, ranking up there with the ubiquity of Minecraft and some of the most downloaded mobile and free-to-play PC games of the last 15 years. The Verge
Where is Fortnite available?
- PC/Mac, Fortnite.com, Xbox Marketplace, PlayStation Store, Nintendo Switch
- There is an app for Fortnite Battle Royale:
- Apple App Store Rating: Removed from the Apple App Store September 2021 (read about why here)
- Google Play Rating: Removed from Google Play (read about why here), but other download options are available for Androids (view Fortnite's Android download page here)
- Developer’s Website: Epic Games (Based in USA)
- Terms of Service
Josh Ochs shares Fortnite safety tips on KTLA-TV in Los Angeles
Josh's tips for parents who allow their students to play Fortnite
- Remember it is a multiplayer shooting game
- Weapons are involved for player’s use
- Players fight each other until there is one victor
While keeping these aspects in mind, consider the user audience and the visuals they are becoming accustomed to with such scenarios. Parents tend to ask, “Why is Fornite so popular with our students?”
A simple answer is, it’s not meant to be all that serious. While players can dress their avatars up in silly costumes and act humorously during the game, the players aren’t meant to solely focus on the idea of “killing” each other off. This weakens the violent focus for players, although the motivation to be the winner is still apparent.
Because friends can team up, or go into “squad mode” during the game, this also creates a feeling of bonding amongst friends during the game.
What is Fortnite?
- Fortnite is an online game released in 2017
- There are 3 main game options:
1. Fortnite Save the World
- Similar to Minecraft, the game play on Fortnite Save the World emphasizes exploring and building
- The player’s objective is to stockpile resources and build shelters that will help them survive a zombie apocalypse
- As zombies attack, players shoot at them to try to survive
2. Fortnite Creative
- The Creative mode lets players gain access to their own private island
- Players can design their own game elements (including new structures, parks, deathmatches, etc.)
- Users can invite friends to come play their creations
3. Fortnite Battle Royale
- Fortnite Battle Royale is a multiplayer shooting game with as many as 100 players per round
- At the beginning of each round, players jump out of a plane onto an island
- There are weapons and resources hidden around the island
- Players fight each other until only one player is left
- Players can arm themselves or use the resources they find to build a shelter for themselves
- Over the course of the game, the gameplay area shrinks so players are pushed closer together
Why is Fortnite Battle Royale so popular with students?
- Players can chat with other players using headsets or text
- Silly humor is very much a part of the game
- Players can wear funny costumes and perform dance moves
- Friends can team up together in duo mode or squad mode
- Fortnite Battle Royale is one of the first games to let players play together across most platforms. So for example, players on mobile can play with their friends who are playing on an Xbox
- The Party Royale mode (launched in 2020) lets players hang out with friends, play nonviolent games, and watch virtual concerts, shows, and even movies
With 45.8 million views… plenty of people saw multiple shows [of Rapper Travis Scott’s virtual concert on Party Royale]… Fortnite has been pushing itself past Battle Royale for a long time now, but this shows how it’s also aiming to push itself even past traditional, competitive gameplay. Forbes
Watch as students describe why they like playing Fortnite
Fortnite in the news
A 45-year-old New York man has been arrested for threatening to shoot an 11-year-old boy over Fortnite, according to police. The Huntington resident allegedly made the threats by text and voice messages through Xbox after the boy beat him, the Suffolk County Police Department said. ABC News
The Kentucky High School Athletic Association banned the popular video game Fortnite from high school esports competitions.‘It's a shooter game but it's cartoonish. It's kind of on that line of, is it appropriate or not?’ said [one high school] esports coach. WYMT-TV News
Police allege [the 35 year-old] used the popular online multi-player game Fortnite to establish contact with minors. They allege [he] then used the application Messenger to contact them and seek to have them send him sexually explicit pictures. In one case, police allege [he] offered money for some images. Montreal Gazette
Why should parents care?
- Fortnite is incredibly popular with students
- The developers add new features and play modes every week to entice people to play more
- Games can last up to 20 minutes and cannot be paused
- The games are designed to keep players coming back, which can be difficult for teens and tweens who haven’t yet developed a healthy relationship with screen time
- Students can chat with strangers while playing and can come across profanity or inappropriate language
- Upgrades can add up. In addition to purchasing Premium Battle Passes, players can also buy 3rd party add-ons to make gameplay easier or to get certain upgrades
- Some of these 3rd party upgrades have been reported as being malicious in nature
- Hackers have targeted Fortnite accounts and spent hundred of dollars on in-game purchases
What parents say about Fortnite Battle Royale
"Minecraft Meets A Toned-Down Version of Call-Of-Duty
Fortnite has a Minecraft-like creative aspect, as players can build structures. Assault weapon guns are used to hunt people and shoot them dead, but there is no blood. Players are randomly assigned a male or female character. The female characters are over-sexualized with big chests, skin-tight clothes, small waists, and large rear ends. Also, be prepared for in-game purchases that your child will beg for."
"This is THE game played by 13/14 yr old boys at my kid's school
So this is supposedly the game the tweens and teens are all flocking to right now. I read the other reviews -- harmless fun, cartoonish graphics, great strategy. That might all be true, but parents should know that many of your kids are up all night playing this game. All night, even on school nights. I believe they are doing real time chat via Discord when playing, which is likely how my kid knows his peers were up all night. It's mostly kids who have computers in their rooms and few screen time limitations." Common Sense Media
What can parents do?
- Encourage a healthy balance when it comes to screen time and time spent offline
- Discuss the difference between virtual violence and real life
- Teach students to never share personal information with strangers online or on games
- Set spending guidelines with your student and ensure that they ask before downloading any new apps or making any in-app purchases
- Download Fortnite and play it before deciding if it’s appropriate for your student
- Play the game with your student
- Tell them to come to you if they ever feel uncomfortable on Fortnite
Use Fortnite's Parental Controls and safety features
- Set up a pin, so your students cannot change the settings
- You can turn on a mature language filter, auto decline friend requests, and more
- Consider setting time limits and using a visual timer, like an egg timer or phone timer, to track how much time they have left to play
- Talk about toxic players and teach your student how to report a player for inappropriate behavior
What students learn in Smart Social’s Navigating Fortnite, Overwatch, Call of Duty & Other Violent Video Games Course for Parents & Students
- The positives and negatives of Fortnite
- How games, like Fortnite, are designed to be just as addicting as drugs and alcohol
- What a gaming disorder is and steps to avoid letting games take over their offline activities and future goals
- Ways to make playing Fortnite a more positive experience
- Register for the Fortnite student workshop here
3 tips from experts to keep students save on Fortnite
1. Familiarize yourself with Fortnite to help protect your kids
Teana McDonald, 3E Connections
Fortnite has 100% taken over and we (parents, educators, guardians) need to be prepared.
My Fortnite journey started when we went out for a family bowling night. I saw my son doing the same dance as another kid all the way across the room. I thought, wow that’s odd. How do they know the same dance? That was my introduction to Fortnite.
I started chatting to other parents about it and asked if their kids were playing, what kind of game is this, what are the rules, why the dances, etc.? We all were puzzled and couldn’t believe that we had no clue what was going on. I immediately started to listen to my son’s conversations with friends, I asked questions, and Google/YouTube became my BFF.
Here are a few Fortnite suggestions I have:
- Listen to you kid's conversations when they are they playing the game. Are they using appropriate language with the other players?
- Understand the terminology of the game (skins, avatars, how much adds-ons cost, etc.)
- Limit your child to play only with friends you know (no strangers)
- Understand that what happens when playing the game with friends can/may carry over to school (fights or disputes over tactics or who won/lost)
2. Configure your child’s account so they can’t talk to strangers
Justin Lavelle, Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified
Put a time limit on the game. Fortnite can be addictive. Although the typical game lasts around 20 minutes, a child can become frustrated if they don't win and keep playing until they reach their desired result. By limiting how long your child plays, you are promoting the idea of “everything in moderation.”
Restrict method of payment
Although Battle Royale is free, the player has the option to purchase additional things like cosmetic upgrades for their characters. These items alter the look of their character and, once purchased, the player can use them for the entirety of the game. If you don’t want your child to purchase things, make sure a credit card isn’t associated with the child’s account. Alternatively, you can limit your child’s spending by using a “paysafecard” or a “games console gift card" which can both be purchased in specific amounts.
Restrict who your student talks to
Parents may fear that their child will talk to strangers through the chat feature of the game. To restrict who your child can talk to during the game, open the settings menu on the main Fortnite page, click on the “cog” icon, open the audio tab, and turn off the voice chat. Then your child won’t have the option to talk while playing.
Be cautious of scams
There are Facebook and Twitter accounts which claim to give away free money or “V bucks” for games and transfer them to the player’s Xbox Live or PSN cards. The player is asked to provide their account name and password in exchange for claiming this prize. This is a scam. Any giveaway promotion from Fortnite will occur only in the game. Make sure your child is aware of these scams and you verify these giveaways before your child provides personal information online.
3. Use Fortnite to teach students about online security
Jon Hayes, Pixel Privacy
Embracing your child's engagement with platforms and games like Fortnite is an excellent way to get them involved in cyber security and emphasize its importance at a young age. This aspect of online safety is often overlooked as the focus typically lies upon identifying unsafe online environments. However, this is an important life lesson and a great way for parents to get clued up on matters such as account security.
Fortnite offers a great incentive to increase account security by allowing players to enable 2-factor authentication. This type of technology is becoming increasingly important in the fight against hackers and provides a great opportunity for both parents and children to sit down and learn more about it. Now, the doors are opened for further discussion on keeping private data safe online and how that data could be used if it fell into the wrong hands.
By discussing these types of security initiatives, it opens up a great dialogue with your child about cyber security.
Students can get in trouble on the Fortnite app when they don't regulate their screen time, play and chat with strangers, make purchases without their parents knowing, or purchase malicious 3rd party upgrades. Game play can also carry over to school and can cause animosity among friends over winning/losing.
But parents can use Fortnite as an opportunity to start a digital safety dialogue with their students, make learning online security fun, and promote positive screen time habits.
It may seem difficult to monitor your student on Fortnite, but if parents follow the steps above, they can help keep their students safe on the game.
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