The craze that is Fortnite: Battle Royale has hit an all-time high during recent months. Released in September 2017, its frenzy and popularity has many parents asking plenty of questions. With school holidays being upon us, it was the perfect fortnight to immerse ourselves in the game Fortnite and learn as much as we could. This blog entry will answer the 3 most common questions, the Cyber Safety Project is being asked by parents about Fortnite and provide some easy to implement tips within your household.
Is there a difference between Fortnite and Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Yes, yes there is! Fortnite is a solo version called Save the World and the massively popular multiplayer version is called Fortnite: Battle Royale. If your kids are asking to play “Fortnite” they're most likely wanting to play Fortnite: Battle Royale version.
The quick summary is that Fortnite: Battle Royale sees up to 100 people participate in a single match together. Players parachute from a party bus onto an island, where they must collect weapons, build structures; all while trying to avoid being killed by other players. While this is going on, a randomly chosen safe zone and moving storm reduces the playing areas within the island and keeps the game moving. All this takes place so that players can ultimately be the last one standing and have “#1 Victory Royale” plastered across the players screen.
Players then quickly reset another match, parachute out of the Party Bus and do it all again and again and again.
Why is my child so interested in playing Fortnite and is it appropriate?
There are many reasons why Fortnite has taken off with children. One is that it combines two extremely popular genres that young children have enjoyed in past - building and survival.
Fortnite allows users to play with friends in Duos and Squads, creating a more social element. Children love the fact that they play with their friends! There are also opportunities to view and watch others playing the game (friends, celebrities, top players) on secondary platforms such as Twitch and YouTube. This again proves challenging with increased screen time in doing so.
For some parents, the cartoonish style of game play and bloodless action within Fortnite and Fortnite: Battle Royale makes the violence seem less problematic; yet there is consistent, encouraged and regular violence throughout every game.
Fortnite: Battle Royale does include live, unfiltered chat between users in the console and PC versions. The voice chat and on-screen text chat are options. Given the average age of a Fortnite: Battle Royale users are men between the age of 18 - 24 years old male, unfortunately this means that users are likely to be exposed to profanity as well as people that they don’t know.
The chat feature can be switched off and is certainly encouraged, if your child is playing collaboratively. In answering whether Fortnite is appropriate it’s important to look at the emotions that are experienced within the game itself.
Children playing Fortnite can become easily frustrated and emotional following consistent failures within consecutive matches. These reactions and management of emotions for younger children derive from desire to do well and win. How a child reacts to a loss or even a win; its importance is often a great indicator to parents to whether the game is suitable or not. Monitoring your child’s ability to ‘switch off’ to do other activities and self-regulate themselves and their emotions should always be a priority while they engage in any digital game or device use.
How can I manage screen time for my children when they're playing Fortnite?
One of the most common concerns that parents raise with us is how to effectively manage screen time within the home. There are some easy measures that can be taken to monitor and manage screen time for children (and adults) playing Fortnite.
When playing Fortnite: Battle Royale, one match can very quickly turn into 15 without limits being put in place. Games usually last around 20 minutes and the quick-fire nature of game play provides an obvious stopping point to ‘switch off’ at the end of a match. However, children that find it difficult to self-regulate get trapped in the cycle of saying “just one more game”.
As a parent, monitoring how many games your child has played can be viewed within the ‘LOBBY’ section. From there you will need to navigate to the users (see image below). This sections details games played and even the total playing time of individual users. This section is great way to set explicit limits around certain number of matches per day.
The images below show you how to find see total matches played and time spent playing.
Our Top 3 tips for parents whose children are playing Fortnite: Battle Royale are:
In the classroom, a key teaching strategy that teachers use when developing a new skill is to model a skill and then that build up a students capacity in that area. For digital use in the home, parents have the perfect opportunity to consistently model responsible and safe digital habits to their children. Over time this modelling will build the capacity of their children and create positive digital habits. The Cyber Safety Project has developed these quick tips for parents to implement within their households to maintain cyber safe behaviour your house hold.
Monday Monitoring – use every Monday as a day to check in with your children on their online habits. The games they are playing and how they are interacting with their peers. This conversation will soon become a habit and provide you as a parent with great insight and all the child with an opportunity to flag any concerns or questions.
“If they have it, you should have it.” We see this as a blanket rule when in comes to knowing how your child is using a device. While many games and applications have similar social networking characteristics, knowledge of how the work gives you, the parent, a far greater understanding of any potential dangers.
Read Up – Knowledge is power - The landscape of the digital world and how we use it changes constantly. If your children are using social media or on a device you need to stay current. Check out our blog at www.cybersafetyproject.com.au for regular updates.
“Let’s be mates” – if you’re child is 13 and starting to use social media, a non-negotiable should be that you are to “follow’ and or be “friends” with them. If they know you’re seeing what they post they will always think twice before doing so.
Influencers – A large part of the appeal of many social media accounts for children is that they get to watch and view the content of popular “influencers”. Have conversations and check who they are following and the content those people are producing. You don’t want negative “influencers” influencing your child.
The gaming world is a juggernaut and a massive way that children and teens spend their time. It is almost impossible to predict what the newest game/app/craze will be that takes the world by storm. Candy Crush, Angry Birds, Words with Friends! Who knows? All of these examples were MASSIVE and unfortunately for their creators many of these games have fallen out of favor amongst children and teens as the next generation of interactive gaming grows.
Now, when looking at the top ten most downloaded applications, 7 of the 10 fall under the 'Social Networking' category. What does that tell us? It tells us that children and teens love engaging with one another online and as a consequence there has been a rise in social networking within games. It's the norm now, and an obvious red flag for parents.
Below are three of the most popular current (this could change next week) games children are engaged in and spending a fair bit of time on.
So let's get our heads around what they are and some things to look out for as a parent.
What you need to know about Fortnite?
Fortnite is a survival action game and after watching the promo there is no wonder the kids love it. You are required to create complex forts to defend and protect yourself and team while fighting off a never ending wave of monsters. The game allows voice and on screen chat from other players, which lends itself to inappropriate language from "keyboard warriors". Because of the social networking aspect to this game, the opportunity to interact with strangers is high, which is always a concern. This is particularly prominent in the free to play multiplayer mode, called Battle Royale. This feature allows up to 100 players to fight against each other or in teams to be the last player standing. This does prompt a significant amounts of negative comments and trash talking within this feature is again much higher.
What parents need to know about Roblox?
Roblox is a creativity space that allows its users to design and build their own interactive games. You are also able to play other games in a multiplayer setting. Features within the site include a "safe-chat" mode for those under 13, as well as a parent login that lets you oversee your child's use of the site (we LOVE this feature). However, don’t let the "safe chat" title fool you, parents still need to be communicating with their children about connecting with people who they they've just met and don't know. As a blanket rule, children shouldn't be connecting and communicating with people online that they haven't met in real life before.
A conversation you must have with your kids when broaching these topics is to ask them directly what are the potential dangers that could occur through meeting a stranger online.
What parents need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft… what a game. It popularity can't be questioned. It's so popular that education providers have now invested in the software to be used as an educational tool within classrooms because of its wide spread engagement amongst school aged children. But I digress, what do parent need to know about Minecraft?
Minecraft is a 'virtual sandbox' that gives users everything that they need to explore a vast world, acquire resources, and create nearly everything they can possible imagine. Literally anything! Unfortunately this means that from time to time children playing may stumble across inappropriate content when exploring other random worlds. Another popular and unfortunate practice within the Minecraft world 'griefing'. This is where random users intentionally troll players through the destruction of engineered structures that they have made. It is the digital equivalent of knocking down somebodies sandcastle. Heartless I know, however it highlights the many negative outcomes associated with networking within digital worlds.
As you can see the opportunity to interact and communicate with others does exists within Minecraft. Therefore children should be carefully and continually monitored while playing or even better disable and hid the chat feature.
Finally, with endless possibilities for creation within Minecraft, the time spent constructing "worlds' can take time. It's important to monitor the screen time and set limits on the usage to ensure children are getting adequate sleep as well as physical activity.
If a game that your child plays isn't on this list, then it is still highly likely that it will still include social networking features within the game play itself. Monitor and check how the game operates to ensure your child is enjoying it in a safe manner.
These games may be obsolete in 6 months time, so remember to continue checking in on what games your children are playing. Check the in game content, themes and social networking features regularly.
Tuesday the 6th of February 2018 was Safer Internet Day. An international day with the theme to 'create, connect and share respect' online. Countless schools engaged in specific lessons around the awareness of emerging issues on the internet and how to be a respectful and responsible digital citizen. Safer Internet Day is truly a fantastic initiative and has certainly generated plenty of discussion amongst children and adults, with many news and media outlets reporting about it on the day. As great as Safer Internet Day is, we feel it also provides a conflicting safety message. To think that a single day is all it takes to be safe and respectful online is missing the point.
How can we keep the momentum of Safer Internet Day going?
Whilst days like 'Safer Internet Day' act as a timely reminder to all who live, work and play online, this week offers an opportunity for parents (and those who work with young people) a timely reminder to plan a longer term, proactive approach to tackling this complex problem. We highly encourage you to use the momentum of Safer Internet Day to have an informed and productive discussion with your children or the young the people in your care about this topic.
The Cyber Safety Project has developed the following conversation cue card outlining 5 questions to ask your child/tween/young adult/mum/dad/granny (as we all should be across internet safety) about their habits and behaviours when engaging on digital platforms.
Questions Rational - Here is the thinking behind each of these questions:
Question 1: “How many followers do you have?”
This can be quite an open ended question that will offer multiple responses. More often than not multiple platforms are being accessed on a daily basis (Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Music.ly, Kik) therefore you should seek multiple answers. If the number seems quite high, for example if a 13 year old says they have 346 followers, some follow up questions could include:
Question 2: “Other than Snapchat, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube what are the three apps you would use the most?”
These social media platforms are the obvious 'BIG 4'. Knowing that their parents and carers use these platforms themselves, young people are seeking alternative social networking avenues. This question provides insight into other social networking sites or games that your child might be using. We can't stress the important of exploring these apps and games for yourself to expose their functionality. Within any App Store Social Networking category, it is generally the second tier apps and games that are being used by younger users. New platforms are constantly being released and reviewed as their popularity rises and falls, each with different ways children can connect and communicate with unknown users.
Question 3: “What time do you think everyone in the house should put their devices away?”
So much of the ongoing research around student behaviour and learning is around the individuals ability to self-regulate. The ability to monitor their own behaviour to positively influence their own well-being. These questions prompt the child/tween/mum/dad/granny to reflect on why the ability to remove oneself from the device and engage with their peers, family and friends is so important. These habits and 'at home' expectations plays a huge part in the overall digital wellbeing of the users and influences the daily usage, device reliance, sleep patterns and wellbeing. Have you and your family got a 'Device and Internet Use Agreement'? It might sound formal but designing this together offers an opportunity to lay down some ground rules and hold each accountable (mum/dad/granny) included. Tip: Parents play the biggest role in setting standards. Modelling and adhering to your families 'Device and Internet Use Agreement' is paramount.
Question 4: "How do you know something is ok to share/post?”
Permission is KING! Too many people, regardless of age, find themselves in hot water because of their own naivety in assuming that something is 'ok' for you to post. Our own digital reputation can be depicted through not only through what we post, but by what other people post of us. So make it reciprocal! Always ask permission before you post a photo of others and expect it in return.
Question 5: "What does it feel like when someone posts something about you online?”
You maybe surprises around why this question is so important! 36% of EVERYTHING that is posted online is categorised as negative, hurtful or inappropriate. Whether it’s the 'keyboard warriors' making comment towards a sports star they don’t like, a negative emoji or a vicious comment towards someone you know, these "negative posts", happen too often. Talking to your child regularly about practical strategies, ways to avoid such negativity online and monitoring will mean their continued online experience is as positive as possible and always at the front of mind.
Knowledge is power, so having regular conversations with your child around their digital habits can give you the best chance at early intervention and support the young people in your care with the best strategies to have a positive digital experience.
Cyber Safety Project.
The Cyber Safety Project are committed to staying current in this constantly changing digital world. These blog and vlog posts provide insight to families about new trends, potential dangers online and effective strategies to maintain safe and respectful digital behaviours for parents, children, schools and the wider community.