Helping Our Children Stay Healthy and Safe in the Digital World


Have your child’s Fortnite references and floss dance moves left you feeling like you now speak different languages? The update Fortnite: Battle Royale, Chapter 2 was released last month and continues to be one of the biggest online games with more than 125 million players worldwide. This viral growth is one factor that draws concern from the media and parents. More than likely if your children are between 8 and 18, they or their friends are serious fans. For some, it might be nearing obsession. Should you be worried? Here’s what you need to know about the game.

In short, it’s a mass online battle where 100 players leap out of a flying bus on to a small island and then fight each other until only one is left. Hidden around the island are weapons and items, including rifles, traps and grenade launchers, and players must arm themselves while exploring the landscape and buildings. It’s also possible to collect resources that allow you to build structures where you can hide or defend yourself. As the match progresses, the playable area of land is continually reduced, so participants are forced closer and closer together. The last survivor is the winner. (Source: The Guardian)

Epic Games states they welcome players twelve and older. For some parents, the cartoony, bloodless style of the action in Fortnite makes the violence less problematic than the life-like gore in other popular shooter games. But the game’s online chat feature can expose younger players to offensive language or mature content from random strangers. (Source: Common Sense Media)

The World Health Organization has recently added Gaming Disorder as a medical condition, however it is reassuring to know the recommended prevention and treatments are nothing new or specific to Fortnite. This includes setting limits on screen time and which apps can be used.

As with any new piece of technology, the most important thing you can do is educate yourself about the game so you can make an informed decision about the rules for your family. You might be surprised to know that an average game only lasts about 20 minutes. Youtube is full of videos with children in a rage because they have been asked to stop playing. Most of these situations could be avoided by setting clear limits ahead of time showing you understand the game and your child’s interests. For example, you can play until the end of this game or tonight you can play two rounds of Battle Royale.

We use a firewall at school to help protect students from inappropriate content and malware while still allowing them to inquire and learn about a broad range of topics. At the FIS our firewall does block Fortnite gameplay on our networks, but many students are downloading and using VPNs on their own devices to route their connection through another server and hide their online actions. While there are some reasons using a VPN might be useful on an untrusted public network, when at school and home using VPNs makes it hard to track and monitor online actions and gives a sense of anonymity which often leads to irresponsible and sometimes dangerous online actions.

In 2017 the FIS held a showing of ScreenAgers: Growing up in the Digital Age, the community had a chance to share their experiences and home technology rules that allowed for a balanced lifestyle.

The official website for the film has many resources, we have compiled many of those in the Parent Resources found on the E-Learning page on the FIS website as well. The resources include some of our favorite websites for the latest information on children and devices like Common Sense Media and the American Academy of Pediatrics. You will also find useful apps for helping develop self-control and links to FIS policies that relate to use of devices and the internet.

Difficult conversations are easier to have if an open dialog on the topic has already started, and simply having these conversations often helps avoid problems later on. The Screenagers’ Director recommends Tech Talk Tuesdays (TTT) as a way to keep an open dialog with your family. Sign up for the blog, and each week your whole family can discuss and share their thoughts on the weekly technology topic.

Here is one to get you started! Fortnite, addiction and what to do about it is a fitting TTT’s that challenges us to look at what causes gaming addiction. There are some great questions at the end everyone in the family will have some opinions about.

Enjoy the discussion, and thank you for working as a community striving for helping our children stay healthy and safe in the digital world.

Allen Lindblad
Director of Educational Technology

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