As “Fortnite” Blows Up, Parents Need to Up Their Game

A new survey confirms what most parents already know: Kids are going crazy for “Fortnite.” Here are some practical tips to manage it. By Sierra Filucci 
As "Fortnite" Blows Up, Parents Need to Up Their Game

Does your kid talk endlessly about Tilted Towers and V-Bucks? Do his shouts of “Revive me! Revive me!” ring throughout your home? Have you considered moving to a remote island without internet access to rid yourself of absolutely anything having to do with Fortnite? Welcome to Fortnite frenzy! You’re the parent of one of 125 million players of the enormously popular multiplayer third-person-shooter video game Fortnite: Battle Royale.

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As parents of Fortnite players know, getting kids to stop playing can turn into a battleground of its own. According to a new Common Sense/SurveyMonkey poll, about one in five parents says it’s at least moderately difficult to get kids off the game. About a quarter say they’re concerned about how much time their kid is playing, and the same number express worry over their kid’s exposure to violence in the game. Here are a few other key findings:

  • Fortnite is super popular — but still not as popular as Instagram. More than six in 10 teenagers (61 percent) say they have played Fortnite, coming close to the percentages of teens who say they use Snapchat (73 percent) and Instagram (74 percent), found in a previous survey.
  • Girls play, too! (But not as much as boys.) Although teen boys are much more likely to say they’ve played (75 percent), 47 percent of teen girls say they’ve played. Of teens who play, about 22 percent of boys play at least once a day, compared to 9 percent of girls.
  • It might be more tempting than geometry. More than one in four teens (27 percent) say they’ve played Fortnite during class at school.
  • Swearing happens. A third of teens (33 percent) say they’ve been exposed to inappropriate language or harassment while chatting with other players.
  • Fortnite = friends (especially for boys). Half of teens (50 percent) say playing Fornitehelps them keep up with their friends, 50 percent say it has helped them learn teamwork, 44 percent have made a friend online, 40 percent have improved their communication skills, and 39 percent have bonded with a sibling. But boys are more likely than girls to claim positive benefits from playing Fortnite. Notably, teen girls are more likely than boys to say they have bonded with a sibling by playing Fortnite.

So, how do you manage a game that’s more fun than math class, keeps kids connected, and even has some positive benefits? By knowing enough about the game to help your kid keep it balanced with all the other stuff they need to do. One way to learn more about the game is to sit down and play it yourself (one in five dads has tried it, as have about 18 percent of moms!). Then, when it comes to setting limits, you’ll have a bit more insider knowledge. These tips will help, too:

Limit by round or time, depending on type of play. In “playground mode,” friends play together in an open world without the usual constraints of a normal Battle Royale session. This means that if you learned the trick of telling your kid they can play a certain number of rounds (which can last anywhere from one to 20 minutes), this new type of play makes those rules moot. In “playground mode” kids can endlessly “respawn” (or come back to life), which means if you want to set a limit, it needs to be based on time (like half an hour or 90 minutes). And kids’ usual excuse of not being able to quit mid-game doesn’t apply in “playground mode.”

Know how to use Fortnite settings. A big concern for parents — especially for younger kids — is the ability to talk to strangers while playing Fortnite. There are a few very easy ways to deal with that. First, don’t get your kid a headset. Without a headset, kids can still play but won’t be able to talk to anyone (unless they simultaneously call their friends on their phones). Another option: Go to settings from within the game, click on “Privacy: Public” and change to “Privacy: Friends” or “Privacy: Private.” That way kids will only play with people whose handles they know (and hopefully have met in real life). Last, turn off voice chat. Go to settings, click on the gear icon, and toggle voice chat to off.

Use parental controls. If you need something a little stronger to enforce your rules around Fortnite, you have a few options. Because Fortnite needs to be connected to the internet to work, any tool that will shut off internet access will allow you to shut off the game. If kids are playing on a console, turning off Wi-Fi through your provider’s app or device should be pretty easy. If kids are playing on an iPhone or iPad, you can use the settings within the device to set limits (or disable access completely) to Fortnite. Check out more information about Screen Time settings in iOS 12. Also, some parental-control products, such as Circle by Disney, build in Fortnite-specific controls.

Parents’ Ultimate Guide to Fortnite

Are your kids caught up in the Fortnite frenzy? Here’s everything you need to know about this popular video game. By Frannie Ucciferri 
The Fortnite frenzy seemed to come out of nowhere — almost as if it dropped from a party bus in the sky. And now many parents are taking notice of this rollicking game where players fight to the death. With Fortnite‘s millions of players and sudden success, you might be wondering: What’s it all about — and is it OK for my kids?

This survival-action game is a bit like what you’d get if you combined a sandbox-building game like Minecraft with an action shooter like Call of Duty. On one hand, it’s getting major points with kids and parents alike for building teamwork and thoughtful collaboration. On the other hand, it’s a combat-based game with tons of guns and violence.

Read Common Sense Media’s full review of Fortnite, and learn more about how it works. Then find answers below to parents’ most frequently asked questions about the game and how to use it safely.

What is Fortnite?
What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Do you play by yourself or with a team in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
What if I’m not ready for the action of Battle Royale?
What is Save the World?
Why is my kid so interested in playing Fortnite?
Is Fortnite appropriate for kids?
What age should kids be to play Fortnite?
How much does Fortnite cost?
Are there microtransactions in Fortnite?
What are Fortnite Seasons?

What platforms can you play Fortnite on?
How is Fortnite related to Twitch?
Can players chat with each other in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
How do you turn off voice chat in Fortnite: Battle Royale?

How long is a match of Fortnite: Battle Royale?
How do I manage screen time for my kids when they’re playing Fortnite?


What is Fortnite?
Fortnite is a video game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, and mobile that takes elements from sandbox-building games and adds the fast-paced action of a third-person shooter. There are two modes to the game: a solo version called Save the World and the hugely popular multiplayer version called Battle Royale.

What is Fortnite: Battle Royale
If your kids say they’re playing Fortnite, they’re probably talking about Battle Royalethe free-to-play multiplayer offshoot of Fortnite. In this version, up to 100 people participate in a match together. Players are dropped onto the game map and must compete to be the last one standing by killing every other player in the game. During the game, players collect weapons, build safe structures, and try to avoid the Storm that damages all players outside of a safe zone. Unlike the Save the World version, there aren’t any zombies to kill, which makes it a less scary version to play. However, players can buy items to make themselves look like a zombie or another creepy character.

Do you play by yourself or with a team in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
There are three modes of play in Battle Royale: Solo, Duo, and Squad. In Solo mode, you’re dropped into the game alone. In Duo, you’re dropped in with a partner. In Squad mode, you play on a team of four. Duos and Squads can either be friends choosing to play together or randomly matched players. All players in a match are playing in the same mode.

What if I’m not ready for the action of Battle Royale? 
Don’t worry if you’ve never played Fortnite or a Battle Royale game before. Playground mode lets players get used to the mechanics of the game without the pressure of fighting other gamers. So, if you’re rusty with a particular gun, need to practice building structures, or even want to try out the vehicles like golf carts or shopping carts without being shot, this is the mode for you. Playground sessions are limited to a maximum of four players, and you can even put everyone on the same team to eliminate the possibility of friendly fire.

What is Save the World?
Save the World is the traditional solo campaign in the game Fortnite. Unlike in Battle Royale, where players compete against each other, players in the Save the World mode are survivors of an apocalyptic storm where the few remaining humans must band together to defeat creepy zombie-like creatures called husks.

Why is my kid so interested in playing Fortnite?
There are many reasons why Fortnite has taken off with kids. One is that it combines two other genres that are big winners with young gamers. Another is that it has a more cartoonish look than some other more gory video games, so younger gamers are drawn to it. Kids can play with friends in Duos and Squads, creating a more social element. And popular YouTube and Twitch gamers like DanTDM have also taken to playing the game on streaming sites. Plus, in the case of Battle Royale, it’s free (although it does have in-app purchases — more on that below).

Is Fortnite appropriate for kids?
For some parents, the cartoonish, bloodless style of the action in Fortnite makes the violence less problematic than the aggressive gore in other popular shooter games. But the game’s online chat feature — especially in Battle Royale — could expose younger players to offensive language or mature content from random strangers. Common Sense doesn’t recommend games with open chat for kids under 13, but with the right controls and parental guidance, this can be a tween-friendly alternative to violent first-person shooters.

What age should kids be to play Fortnite?
Common Sense recommends Fortnite for teens 13 and up, primarily because of the open chat and action violence.

How much does Fortnite cost?
Players can currently download Fortnite: Battle Royale for free. The current cost of the full Fortnite is $39.99, although the developer, Epic Games, has suggested it will make that version of the game free-to-play sometime in 2018 as well.

Are there microtransactions in Fortnite?
There are frequent opportunities for players to spend real money on items in the game. Fortnite encourages purchases such as upgrades to editions such as Deluxe and Super Deluxe, as well as in-game currency to buy bonus items. There’s also the Premium Battle Pass, a $10 subscription that lets players compete on more levels and win exclusive game skins/costumes.

What are Fortnite Seasons?
Unlike other multiplayer games, Battle Royale has a storyline, which results in frequent additions of new content to the game. Many of these new elements, such as skins and costumes for characters, simply serve to keep the game fresh and exciting. But others introduce completely game-changing features. You might see a brand-new game map (without major features you’re used to playing with), new teleportation rifts (to let you travel to new places), and new ways you can appear to other players (such as the ability to become invisible). Seasons seems to update approximately every 10 weeks and you’ll begin to see clues to the updates during the current season.

What platforms can you play Fortnite on?
Fortnite is available on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac. Users need an internet connection to play. A mobile version is also available for iOS and Android. Players can play “cross-platform,” which means a Windows player can be on a team with a console player, for example. Gamers can also create an account on any device and carry over their progress in a game to another system. For example, you could start on a cell phone, then pick up a game on a computer or console later in the day and continue where you left off.

How is Fortnite connected to Twitch?
Some kids aren’t only playing Fortnite — they’re watching other people, including celebrities like Drake, play it on Twitch. Twitch is a social media platform for gamers where they can livestream themselves playing popular video games, including FortniteLivestreaming can be unpredictable, so make sure to check out which gamers kids are watching, and if kids say they want to livestream themselves, carefully consider the risks.

Can players chat with each other in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
There is live, unmoderated chat possible between users in the console and PC versions of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Both voice chat and on-screen text chat are options. This exposes players to random strangers and the likelihood of profanity. Chat is currently unavailable in the mobile version of the game.

How do you turn off voice chat in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main Fortnite page by selecting the three bars, then the cog icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can adjust several audio features, including voice chat. Turn the setting from on to off by tapping the arrows.

How long is a match of Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Each match in Battle Royale lasts about 20 minutes, although players who are killed early play for less time.

How do I manage screen time for my kids when they’re playing Fortnite?
When each match only takes 20 minutes, it’s easy to fall into the trap of “just one more” — sort of how you end up binge-watching an entire season of Stranger Things. But you can take advantage of the quick matches by using them as a natural stopping point in gameplay. Some kids benefit from using a timer, limiting themselves to a certain number of matches per day, or using one of these tips for finding a balance between gaming and other activities.

Jeff Haynes, Senior Editor, Web and Video Games, contributed to this story.

Apps Stirring Up Trouble in Schools

This year’s hottest social media can fill the school day with drama and distraction. 
By Caroline Knorr 
Apps Stirring Up Trouble in Schools

Ask any middle or high school teacher what their biggest classroom challenge is, and it’s pretty much guaranteed they’ll say “cellphones.” Makes sense. Today, 95 percent of teens have access to a cellphone, and nearly half say they’re on them “constantly.” Putting aside for a moment the need to find solutions to this problem, inquiring minds want to know: What the heck is on kids’ phones that they can’t go an entire class without them?

Two words: killer apps. Specifically, the ones that play into the tween and teen brain’s need for stimulation and peer approval and its weakness for thinking through consequences — in other words, stuff that lets them gossip, socialize, play games, and — if they’re so inclined — not work too hard. These apps are designed to capture kids’ attention and hold it for as long as possible. (Learn about the tricks social media designers use to keep kids hooked.) And once an app gains critical mass (like, when every kid in school is on it), your social life takes a major hit if you don’t, for example, play Fortnite, keep up a Snapstreak, or stalk your crush on Find My Friends. And, honestly, it takes a pretty steadfast kid to resist tapping into the internet hive mind for answers to tough homework questions (especially when everyone else seems to be doing it).

No wonder teachers have such an uphill battle keeping tweens and teens focused in class. But you can help your student by discussing this issue at home. In fact, by simply being aware of some of the key apps that tend to stir up trouble in schools, whether due to social drama, distraction, or something worse — like cheating — you can start a conversation with your kid that could save them and the teacher a lot of headaches. And while you don’t have to know every single detail of all the popular apps, it helps to have an awareness of when, why, and how they’re being used and to help your kid manage their own use and that of their friends. Most teachers would probably agree that the internet has been a mostly positive aspect of the middle and high school years. But students, with the support of parents, need to use it responsibly. (Learn more ways to help kids manage their app use and stay focused in school.)

Check out some of the apps that can potentially stir up drama in schools this year:

Snapchat. The original disappearing-message app has metamorphosed into a megaportal for chatting, finding your friends on a map, sharing images, reading the news, watching videos, and much, much more. As one of the most important apps for teens, it takes up a significant portion of their day. One of those time-consuming activities that occupy students during the school day is Snapstreaks, which require users to trade snaps within a 24-hour period. The longest streaks number in the thousands of days — and some kids maintain streaks with multiple people.

Tik Tok – including musical.ly. What started as a lip-synching app is now a hugely popular, full-fledged video-sharing service. The ability to “go live” at any time — meaning to stream yourself live (yes, on the internet) — has added a whole ‘nother level to the time tweens and teens can spend dancing, singing, pranking, and performing skits to music or other recorded sounds. While much of the content is fine, a lot of it is extremely iffy for kids, and when you watch it, you can see plenty recorded during the school day.

Games such as Fortnite and HQ Live Trivia Game Show (HQ for short). Fortnite has all the hallmarks of being a teacher’s worst nightmare: It’s easy to play, highly social, and super compelling. The hugely popular survival game is played in short bursts (until you die — which is often), so it’s tailor-made for students trying to get a bit of fun in between lunch and algebra class. Some schools are banning the game, leading to knockoff versions that get around the school network’s blacklist. HQis the smash-hit trivia game that’s played for real prize money. Each 12-minute game is hosted live as hundreds of thousands of players log in to answer 12 multiple-choice questions on a wide variety of trivia topics. Games usually take place twice on weekdays and once on weekends (the company experiments with different airtimes to keep players on their toes). Sponsors including Nike and Warner Bros., and big jackpots timed with massive events such as the NBA finals, show that HQ is actively cultivating a young audience.

Homework helpers such as PhotomathSlader, and, of course, Google. What do you do if you’ve been goofing off all day, or just feverishly multitasking, and can’t finish your geometry problems? Look ’em up. Apps that supply all the answers are only a few taps away. And don’t even get us started on home assistants like Siri, Alexa, and Google Home, all of which can be programmed to provide tutor-like assistance.

People finders such as Find My Friends and Mappen. Kids love being in touch with their friends 24/7/365, and location apps make it easy to arrange get-togethers and make plans with your posse. But these apps have a dark side, too. Kids feel pressured to be “on” all the time, partly because of friends’ expectations that one should always be available. Stalking — either of your kid or by your kid — can be a major issue. And, riskiest of all, some location-aware apps encourage face-to-face meet-ups with strangers.