Just when I thought I had escaped the inevitable, it happened.
My eight-year-old son came home from school and promptly asked, “Mom, please can I download Fortnite? Everyone else at school is playing it, and it’s all everyone is talking about, and I promise I won’t play it too much, and it’s not too violent, it’s more like working together as a team, and, and, and…”
The new F-word had hit my home, and I knew that it wasn’t going to go away anytime soon. And did I give in? Of course I did.
Let’s face it parents, the digital world has turned us into hypocrites. One moment we’re preaching to the kids that the “but everyone else is doing it” argument just isn’t going to cut it, and the next, we’re lazily giving in to the parental peer pressures of providing our kids with the same mind-numbing games that their peers are playing online, so they don’t miss out – or maybe so they’ll just stop bugging us.
In the beginning, I swore that my children would enjoy an unplugged childhood. The time suck and brain drain of electronics just didn’t seem necessary, and they weren’t asking, so why would I offer?
When they entered school, they surreptitiously succumbed to the pressures of their peers, and admittedly, I submitted to their pleas. First it was Pokémon cards. “Please mom, everyonehas them and they’re trading them at school and I’m left out and they’re so cool and…” Then it shifted to the online space with the massive move to Minecraft. And now, the latest gaming craze has hit the playground and parents like me are giving in, without fully understanding what Fortnite is or how it will impact their lives.
Like many parents, my kids broke me down, and I gave in. But it wasn’t without setting some serious boundaries and doing a live walk-through of the game alongside my kids. I wanted to understand what I was getting into, and while I wasn’t fully on board with what I discovered, I knew that once the download had completed, there was no going back.
I’ve learned some lessons about Fortnite so far that I think are important for you as parents to know before your child dives into this digital battleground.
First, know that allowing them to play won’t shush the incessant mentioning of the F-word. Just yesterday, my son pleaded politely, “Mom, please can you buy me a battle pass so I can get two skins (outfits of armour)? Everyone’s making fun of me because I’m still a Newb (new to the game).” I haven’t said yes to that one – yet.
If your child is allowed to play, know that other parents can potentially see how often and for how long a day your child is online, and if your child is playing with a headset (because they can talk to each other live during the game), know that the parents of their online friends can sometimes hear you in the background (goodbye privacy!).
I thought I had maintained control of the situation, setting time limits, restricting game play to headset-free mobile devices, and walking my children through the process so I could understand the rules.
Tonight I let the time limit slip. Bedtime was quickly approaching, so I announced to the room of Fortnite fiends that it was time to unplug. And just when I thought I had my parenting partner on board, my husband’s deep voice murmured from the living room, “Aw come on, just five more minutes?”
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor and marketing consultant. Find her online at @bitsofbee.