HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Many parents are struggling with what they call a "Fortnite Detox" for their kids, especially with school back in session. Fortnite was created by Epic Games in July 2017 and has now become a phenomenon with more than 40 million people logging in to play the game every month. It's described as a battle royale genre game and can be played through your phone, console or computer.
Now with the new school year, many parents are wondering how to get their kids to focus on school work and get back into their normal routines. So much so, dozens of Facebook support groups are forming online to help parents deal with their kid's "Fortnite obsession." Licensed social worker, Carol Fletcher, said now that we live in a digital world, screens are more accessible to kids. She noted that many times, children are just seeking excitement and achievement through games like Fortnite.
Fletcher said gaming can be a good thing at times if used in moderation, like helping with hand-eye coordination. However, too much of anything is not always a good thing. Fletcher said there's a big difference between obsession and addiction. One of the biggest red flags that parents should look out for is when your child begins to isolate themselves in social settings.
How do you know if your child has a serious problem? Fletcher says every individual is affected differently by gaming.
"Whatever the ages of the child and whatever they should be doing age appropriately are they doing. Are they skipping homework, skipping class, skipping meals, staying up all night? Because if the video game playing is fitting into their regular schedule, then it's not a problem. It's only when we start to see that regular ordinary activities that would be age appropriate for them aren't being met that we actually have a problem," said Fletcher. "So as long as everything else is being met, then probably there isn't a problem there and there are some scales you can look at, but I think that a parent can look at their child and say, are they meeting the needs, the expectations of the school society and of the household? And as long as that's being met, then the game playing isn't having a negative affect and that's the first step to look at."
If you think your child might have a problem, Fletcher doesn't recommend cutting cold turkey. Instead, try just cutting back screen time at first. Remember, consistency is key. She said when you're enforcing the rules, try to understand the game your child plays by keeping an open conversation.
"I think instead of reminding them that it's my stuff and you're just using it - I would just have a policy that those kind of activities are earned just with anything even a play date, a night over with friends - those are all earned and when they've been earned they can be participated in as opposed to this is mine and I'm going to dictate," said Fletcher. "A lot of times when you approach a child with that type of an attitude of I'm going to issue all the rules on this instead of having a give and take conversation, they close their ears with the minute they heard I'm going to tell you how this is going to work, so we've lost the open ended conversation. What we want with our children is open conversation open conversation, starting from when they are very little - toddlers - all the way through life is something that will expand and make for really good relationships when you're both adults, and that's a nice transition to make slowly."
For a link to a popular Fortnite support group, "Fortnite-iParent 101," click here.