FORTNITE “A plague on your HOME”??

By Guido Marchetti, Cloud Lead, MJ Flood Technology

Every time I’ve listened to the radio over the last two weeks I’ve heard people talking about Fortnite. Similarly, I had a conversation with a client during a business meeting about the same topic and everyone seems to share the same concerns. Is this bad for my child?

Over the weekend my eye was caught by a headline from one of the usual sensational and attention-grabbing publications. This has also been widely reported in a number of publications including this online version https://www.techspot.com/news/75010-nine-year-old-placed-rehab-fortnite-addiction.html

It talks about a nine year old girl who was addicted to the game Fortnite, to the extent that she wet her pants to continue playing the game rather than go to the bathroom. She is now in REHAB receiving treatment to help break her cycle.

I fear that this will kick off another cycle of pitchfork carrying parents calling for all types of intervention and legislation to be passed as I have heard in the past. This, of course, isn’t helped by recent announcements such as the World Health Organisation classifying “gaming disorder”. You can almost feel the hysteria building. I am not dismissing this by the way, it is a real challenge, but it needs some real perspective and for people to start taking responsibility.

I will stop here and just declare that I am a parent, and I share the concerns of all parents when it comes to electronics and allowing access to certain things, and this goes beyond just games and consoles. Let’s face it I grew up in the 80’s and according to studies over the last 10 years I’m lucky to be here, there was lead based paint on my cot!! Which I chewed ???? I am reliably told.

The point is that times have changed and so have the responsibilities of parenting with these new threats. Back to my childhood, we were told to beware of strangers, if your being bullied to tell someone (that stopped once you went home. See here for another article http://mjf.ie/blog/cyber-bullying ) and if you were lucky enough to have a games console it was shared, it was not in your room and not as connected to the internet as it is today.

Fast forward to my home today and I have an Xbox, one that is connected to the internet and has access to a library of free and paid for games, but it is mine. My son can play it yes, he also wants one of his own but he isn’t getting it because we already have one. He has Games and a profile on the device, but it’s controlled and here comes the free advice to all parents who are struggling with controlling access to games and online content. Oh and yes he plays Fortnite!!!

1. The Parent should control the Console:

Let’s all be honest with each other, our Kids cannot afford these consoles. We buy them or give them access to them, along with IPads and other wonderful toys/silence tools. Every child knows what YouTube and Netflix is, but as a parent it is our responsibility to control these things. Simple rules can help with this such as, no devices in bedrooms and instead consoles are kept in shared rooms only and that’s just a start. But if you want real control you need to configure the devices, here is a simple thing on an Xbox for example.

Create a parent account (you control) and password protect it, to keep those tech-savvy kids away from the controlling account. Next set up a Family account and then add your kid’s profile to it. It’s quite simple and if you google search Microsoft Family you will find how to pages. You can find it here: https://support.xbox.com/en-IE/browse/xbox-one/security/Family%20settings

2: Enforce Controls:

Once the account is added, you can control content and set age limits so that any inappropriate games, videos etc. are blocked and require a parent’s password to allow access. And even then, you can allow access once and then use it as a treat later ????. You can also block their chat capabilities and hide information about them from everyone else on the network.

My favorite feature is screen time, using family you can decide on the time and days that your child can sign in and play on the device. You can have a zero-time allocation on Monday – Thursday as I do with my son, and then on Friday-Sunday he gets 1.5 hours per day max. When his time is up, the console kicks him offline and off the console. If he wants more screen time he must do chores or help out in some meaningful way.

I have proudly heard my son explaining to his mates, that his screen time is over and that he might see them later online or even better outside. You will be surprised at how accepting kids are when it’s the norm or becomes the norm.

3: Take responsibility

Most online services such as Apple, Sony etc have similar services to help us to protect our kids on the devices that we buy them, so find them and make those changes now. Here is a sobering fact for you all. Access to these games and online services, Games Consoles, Social media sites etc. studies have shown that allowing kids to interact with these have shown increases in serotonin. That is the same release that one would feel when drinking, smoking, taking drugs, so before you hand a device over or continue allowing uncontrolled access, just think about what you are doing.

I understand that I know a bit more about technology than most, I do after all work in it, but at the same time I know very little about education, but I take a vested interest in my children’s education and help them along their way. We need to do the same for our children’s online lives, if we give them access to a connected world then we must protect them from all the bad things that can happen to them.

If the above all seems like too much effort than buy one of these then google search an appliance that controls their access, I also have one of these and it helps a lot. I just want to help people with this challenge. The best of luck to you all ????