Rabbi Ross. My boys have fallen prey to a game called fortnight. I’m not sure what the game is, but they are always playing, and they insist that all of their friends are also. Oddly enough, they’re kind of right. When I called other parents, they seemed helpless in the face of this game. I don’t want to be the bad mother, but I think my children need to stop playing. What should we do? Chaya - Flatbush
Yes, I’ve heard of Fortnite. It’s a video game that many people play, and it works on PlayStation, Xbox, Windows, Mac, iPhones and even Android phones. Before we discuss your issue, I want to explain something. The first mistake that many parents make, is not understanding the games their children play. Would you let your child hang out with a friend that you’ve never heard of? Would you send your child to a playgroup without vetting it properly? Of course not! I’m not sure how parents could just allow kids to play any game without checking into it.
One father told me, “If so many kids are playing, it’s probably ok.” That’s ridiculous! I know of a family that allowed their children unrestricted access to the game Clash of Clans. A few weeks later, they found out that their kids were talking with other players in a chat room of some sort. I saw a transcript of the conversation, and it’s the type of thing parents have nightmares about. Let this be a lesson to all parents. Before allowing your children to play any game, make sure that you understand it yourself. If you are incapable, ask someone who does understand the game.
Let’s get back to Fortnite. This is a game that pits players against other players. There are treasures, surprises, rewards, and many other concepts that appeal not only to children but even to many adults. It’s a game with a lot of violence, although it’s less gory than similar games, and it has more of a cartoonish vibe. Players can chat with strangers, although most boys play with friends. Most importantly, this game is extremely addictive.
Furthermore, when a player gets out, they can see how their opponent was doing. This motivates them to try again since they were “so close” to winning. A 6th-grade boy told me recently that the hardest part about Shabbos is that he can’t play Fortnite. It’s quite scary if you think about it. I can assure you that a lot of money went into developing this game, and boy, is it working. In March of 2018, the game made $296 million dollars! These developers will do whatever they can to keep the kids playing.
Now that you have a better understanding of the game, we can discuss how to wean children off of it. Obviously, some of the ideas listed here might work, and others won’t. If you have any other ideas, please comment below or send me an email. These ideas are designed to stop your child from playing Fortnite, not from using electronic devices. That’s an entirely different discussion.
Obviously, many people reading this are thinking, “What’s the big deal? Take away their phones or devices or just delete the game!” If only it were that easy. Some parents have a strong relationship with their children and can get away with this. If it’s a viable option, go for it! However, many parents cannot. When I used the word addiction to describe this game, I wasn’t using it lightly. There are many children that are completely enveloped in the game. Parents all around the world have thrown in the towel and are at wit's end. These suggestions are for the parents that don’t know what to do.
Rabbi Yitzie Ross is a Rebbe and has been working with parents and kids for many years. You can read more about him in the "about" section.