Why I’m pulling the plug on Fortnite.

I’m no longer allowing my son to play Fortnite.

Like millions of other kids his age, earlier this year my son came home and asked if he could get Fortnite. This was just as it was becoming popular. He said that some kids at school were talking about it. “Can I get it? It’s free!”

And like many moms, I said, “Ask your father.”

No, this isn’t because ours is a patriarchal household. We have an even distribution of stuff. Xbox–that’s his. I don’t even know how to turn it on, let alone download games. So I put it on him to look it up and decide. He took a look, and let him do it. The main account is under my husband’s name.

Then, summer came.

Why I'm no longer allowing my son to play fortnite.

Here on the east coast, we had a terrible summer.

It was either cloudy and raining, or above 100 with record high humidity. On those days, it was even too hot to swim. Our rainfall was several inches above average and it feels like we spent months indoors in the air conditioning.

We did go to the pool every chance we could. He also attended basketball camp and played in a summer basketball league 3 nights a week. We did day trips with family and spent a week and a weekend at the beach.

But other than that, yeah, he was playing Fortnite. Way too much Fortnite.

My fault!

I totally take responsibility for falling into bad habits. I work from home. I have a disabled child to take care of and he had many medical appointments including several in NYC. And a 5-day hospitalization. Brian did exceptionally well on his report card, so I let him get $40 headphones (with a mic) as a treat. All of those things turned out to be a recipe for too many video games!

He was chatting with friends online while playing Fortnite. He always asked first if he could friend someone. My husband repeatedly looked over his list of Fortnite contacts to make sure we knew who everyone was. It seemed like a win/win for us. It was an activity that kept him busy indoors while I worked, and he was still talking with friends who he sees at school. In my heart, I knew that it was probably too much time, but kept thinking, “well, next week when it’s sunny, we will….” And the sun rarely came out.

Doubt setting in.

Right around the time my gut was telling me that this wasn’t good for Brian, my husband said he had the same feeling. “I wish I hadn’t said yes to him getting Fortnite,” he confided.

We continued to let him play. I set time limits based on what the “experts” said online. I took it away when he exhibited an undesirable behavior.

Still, I didn’t want him playing at all.

His behavior was changing. Extreme mood swings. If I told him to “get off Fortnite, time for dinner” I was always met with “I just need to finish this match.” If I insisted, his mood swing was abnormal.

Then the other day, I saw this:

Whadda’ know? Me and Natalie Morales having the same concerns.

Setting Limits on Fortnite

So, what Natalie Morales has done is eliminate it Monday through Thursday at her house. I’m going with altogether. Or, allowing him to play it only in rare circumstances. VERY rare circumstances.

Here, specifically, are the changes I was seeing in my son as relates to Fortnite. I want to add that yes, we have Madden and NBA and other games. But only Fortnite elicits these responses from him.

  • Disregarding my requests to get off the game. Yes, as the parent, I always “took charge” and made him get off and even took it away for days afterward. However, I dislike the increased frequency of confrontations about this. We don’t have confrontations about any of his other games or the time spent on them.
  • Ignoring timers (Alexa) that I set to remind him when his Fortnite time is over. I come in from the gym or the garden and know that he has just turned Alexa off and kept playing.
  • Wanting to skip other activities (football practice, family outings) so that he can stay home and play Fortnite.
  • His extreme honing in on the game. When he gets home from school, he barely goes to the bathroom and even skips his afternoon snack just so that he can hop right onto Fortnite.
  • My husband has been closely watching how he plays the game with his friends and we cannot find any redeeming qualities to this game.
  • I do not like that the game is based on how much of something that you collect (skins, levels) or how much you have. We are trying to raise kids who are proud of who they are, not how much they have. It goes against instincts of how I want to teach my kids to be.

Gaby Hinsliff over at The Guardian is not taking it away but is rationing her kids’ access to Fortnite. The folks at Mashable seem to take the stance that this is just another fad, and the pearl-clutchers can stop, well, pearl-clutching. And just wait for the next fad to come along and drown out Fortnite.

To that I say, “No thank you.”

Even if you are a parent who is fine with your kids playing Fortnite, most will agree that this game captures them unlike other games. Fortnite is addicting and designed to be so.

Embrace it? Hail no!

BigThink states (in embedded video in that link) that this generation is spending more time gaming than any other generation. And that we should just embrace it, since it’s what they love.

Nope, nope, nope. Big fat nope. I don’t picture anyone on their deathbed stating, “I wish I had spent more time playing video games.” I’ll continue with my hand-wringing, thankyouverymuch.

And, stop my child from playing Fortnite.

You can have a happy childhood without so much time on video games. Debating this whole Fortnite thing was a wake-up call to all of us. We’re all spending less time on screens, monitoring ourselves, really keeping track of when we are online and why. Because I also don’t think anyone will be on their deathbed stating “I wish I had spent more time on social media.”

I’ve already let him know that there will be no more Fortnite Mon-Thursday, and that weekend time is going to be limited to about an hour a day. It didn’t go well. But, that only makes me feel more confident in my decision. Mostly, I know that he would not react this way if I said “No more NBA 2k18.” Fortnite is different. The parenting and child development experts are still trying to figure out what is different about it. But it’s different.

Good luck in whatever you choose for your family.