Monday, May 21, 2018

What Story Are Your Kids Living Out in Fortnite? The Importance of Avoiding Violent Video Games

Fortnite Weapon Choices
Fortnite has been a popular game for quite a while, but it seems like just recently its made it to the headlines in educational news organizations as a problem for schools. If you don’t know what it is, it is basically the latest video game craze that tweens, teens and even 20 and 30 year old adults love to play or just watch others play for hours. It’s a mix of Minecraft and Hunger Games in a really engaging, well designed environment where up to 100 players simultaneously work to build up their own defenses while at the same time trying to eliminate all other players--the last person alive or small team of one or two players wins. The boundaries of this virtual world even shrink over time  so people can’t hide out through a storm that players have to avoid. More on Fortnite from Common Sense Media.

Nintendo Wii Just Dance- Fun Without Violence!
I’ve never been a fan of violent video games. When our oldest kids were in elementary school we purchased an original Nintendo Wii which they still occasionally use. Our games are pretty basic such as Mario Cart, Wii Sports, and Just Dance. We never purchased any of violent games, and managed to avoid getting a Play Station or X Box or having our kids play a lot of video games online in general. We’ve always tried to limit their entertainment screen time to about 60 minutes per day and have discouraged any sort of violent video games with guns and killing. I know this doesn’t mean that our kids haven’t ever played these games at a friend's house or more recently through their phone. Games are now easily accessible through mobile devices with high quality graphics in an experience that rivals what used to only be available on the external game consoles. But it does mean they've spent a lot less time gaming and in simulated violent environments which we believe is better for them. Although you can find studies that will back both sides, I've read enough about the negative effects of playing violent video games that makes me believe avoidance is important.
Checking Battery (App Time) Use

Recently our sons were playing Fortnite, so I sat down with them and talked about the content of the game, its objectives, as well as the pretty realistic graphics as players kill off opponents. We talked about how playing something repeatedly conditions ourselves to be less affected by violence. I know there are certain games that are much more violent and gory than Fortnite, and I’m very thankful that we our kids haven’t been into those or wanted to play them. I asked them to cut back on their time playing Fortnite and encouraged them to try to stop playing this type of game altogether. I had each of them go to their phone's settings and look at their battery usage, which lists the total amount of time spent per app. I’ve use this technique in the past as a good tool with my kids to review and talk about what they’re doing on their phones and how much time they are spending on entertainment and social media. I had them take a screenshot of their battery usage and asked them to hold on to that so we could refer back to it in a week and compare their usage overall.

What story are your kids living out in their video games?

Two weeks after this conversation, I'm thankful to report that both boys have stopped their playing of the game altogether. I hadn't expected them to both stop
 completely so soon. I know this isn’t always the case and that some kids will have a much harder time stopping their play of a fun, addictive game. Mathew Meyers, a licensed marriage and family therapist with whom I've done some parent webinars, specializes in helping young people with video game addiction, and begins by having them track their time spent gaming and gradually reducing this. Years ago I heard Dr. David Walsh talk about the dangers of having kids play violent video games and how every game teaches you a storyline. He stated that "Whoever tells the story defines the culture" and asked, "What story are your kids living out in their video games?"  I think these are important questions to continue to ask ourselves and as parents and work to not let our children spend their time in the culture of violent video worlds. We try to limit our exposure to violence in our movie and TV media and news channels as well. This is tough, especially when something like Fortnite is so popular. But as parents, we need to help our children learn to have a healthy balance in the amount of time spent on entertainment and video gaming and steer them to experiences with more positive story lines. They'll be better people in the long run. 

Check out Common Sense Media's tips on How to Handle the Violent Videos at Your Kid's Fingertips

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