I really didn’t expect to have to deal with my children being influenced from an outside source as young as eleven years old.
We haven’t even started high school. Yet, here I am, trying to tackle my son, who, up until five moths ago was a polite, calm, laid back kid who’s biggest problem was finding matching sock in the morning and throwing the odd strop bcause I hadn’t stockedthe cupboards up with enough chocolate biscuits.Then, like an unwelcome guest who moved in and took over our lounge (and wifi)…. Fortnitearrived!Before then he would take or leave the computer. He would play ten minutes here, half an hour there and then lose interest.H originally ‘sold’ Fortnite to me as a free game that he can play with his school friends, I agreed that he could download it.
Since then, parenting my Fortnite obsessed son has turned me into an skilled negotiator, lowered my mental age to 11 to try to understand/sympathise with him and brought out my inner ‘Mrs Trunchball’.
I get it. I remember being obsessed with Mario Kart and Sonic the hedgehog when I was his age. My brother and I would play for hours and hours if we were allowed (which we weren’t).The big difference is that I wasn’t accessible to anyone online and once the game was purchased, no further expenses were incurred.
Fortnite is ingenious, they have created a game with an online community which creates a constant link to friends (and strangers) as well as offering a so called ‘free’ game but that you have to constantly buy bolt ons for.
I have moaned about the game, I have had screaming matches with my son, I have tried to reason with him, it has been an exhausting few months and I know I am not alone.H would get back from school and put his headphones straight on.He sulked when I ask him to switch it off.He threw tantrums if the internet was slow because it made the game ‘lag’.His general attitude was shameful and I was not ready for this ‘Kevin’ stage, (certainly not until he is at least 13!Apart from the change in his attitude, I was concerned about the dangers. My husband has friends that play this game! Without realising it H has been playing in online groups that adults have been in.It was Piers Morgan of all people who I felt gave me the kick up the arse I needed.There was a section on Good Morning Britain about Fortnite and it’s effects on children.We heard about children who were wetting themselves rather than stopping the game (you can not pause Fortnite). They also announced that Fortnite is the first game that has resulted with a child being referred for counseling on the NHS.So Piers, rather than just object to the game, put the blame firmly at the parents feet.My first reaction was anger. This game has been expressly designed to hook and addict my child and I was trying my hardest to keep my preen in line.The family counsellor who was a guest on the show said ‘Parents are trying to hard to be liked by their children, they are too scared to upset them’That sounded so familiar and then I realised, I had become the mum I never thought I would be…..the mum that puts being her child’s friend in front of discipline, safety and respect.I made H watch the segment. He saw for himself what the majority of parents were thinking.
All the children are telling their parents,
‘Jonnys mum lets him play when he wants’‘Billys mum lets him play longer than you let me’When actually, that’s all rubbish! We are trying to enforce rules and the kids are (embarrassingly) manipulating us.I asked him what he thought was a reasonable amount of screen time each day. We agreed on 45 minutes on a week day (after chores and homework is done) and 1.5 hours at the weekends.So far this has been working brilliantly.We have also sat down together and watched the story of Breck Brednar, a school boy that lived near to us.He was groomed for over a year by a lad in his gaming community. Despite his parents concerns and warnings, he was tragically murdered at 14 years old by the 17 year old boy.Watching the documentary was a big turning point.Listening to Brecks mum recall how she tried so hard to reason, explain, sanction Breck because she knew the dangers there could be online, was heart breaking. To then watch Breck ignore his parents concerns, just like H had been doing to us, and to seewhat tragedy has resulted was a wake up call for me, my husband, H and his brothers.
So much so that my husband ran the London Marathon this year for The Breck Foundation.
H has a new attitude to the computer now, and I still know it is an on going battle, but for now it is one we are winning!
I would love to know about your experience with your child and gaming.I asked a few fellow bloggers how they deal with this and limit screen time with their children:Pete at www.householdmoneysaving.comMy son has an hour per day. And if he starts shouting at the screen, it gets turned off straight away.Beth at www.twinderelmo.co.ukMy son had his first Xbox for his 9th birthday in December. Honestly? We just let him monitor his own screen time and after hammering it for a few months, he’s got bored of it. He will have the odd hour here and there but as a whole it’s fizzled out.Sophie at www.youmeraisingthree.co.ukI allow our daughter some screen time on the iPad as some down time before dinner or on long car journeys. She knows she’s limited to 30minutes and is only allowed on certain apps. We make sure she’s not shut away in her room so we are aware of what she’s doing/watching.If she’s not behaved well then she doesn’t have it at all. It’s definitely a privilege.Luschka at www.diaryofafirstchild.comWe use an app that blocks the children’s devices after 2 hours of use. Its brilliant as I can set bed times, school hours, outdoor time etc and can also select which apps are blocked at different times. The kids can also earn more screentime by doing extrajobs and since the app manages it all, mum cant be blamed for it running out of time!Sarah at www.mummycatnotes.comWe allow an hour after school, it must go off before dinner time and they seem happy with that, it’s letting them know that you are in charge and your rules stand, my son doesn’t play fortnite but does play mine craft with his sister occasionally and I alwaysmake sure to time them and they seem pretty happy coming off when asked.Rebecca at www.youmeraisingthree.co.ukI allow our daughter some screen time on the iPad as some down time before dinner or on long car journeys. She knows she’s limited to 30minutes and is only allowed on certain apps. We make sure she’s not shut away in her room so we are aware of what she’s doing/watching.If she’s not behaved well then she doesn’t have it at all. It’s definitely a privilege.Leigh at www.dadgeek.co.ukI’ve been talking a lot about this today after posting a news article about another 9 yr old having issues.Despite attempts to demonise one videogame or another, this is really an issue of parents being involved and setting limits. Make an effort to understand the games your children are playing and you’ll be better informed about their suitability.Many games are rated for content but only parents will know if a child is emotionally mature enough to remain calm whilst playing a competitive game. Parents should set clear time limits and stick to them so that children learn what those boundaries are.If a child is getting angry or upset while playing, it’s time to turn the game off and come back with a calmer state of mind. If the child can’t stay calm, they are not yet mature enough to be playing it at all.Kelly-Ann at www.mimiroseandme.comUse it as a reward. We have daily tasks that she can work towards and if she does well she has an extra ten minutes. Giving them a time limit helps and if she starts to cry or grumpy when I take it away she doesn’t get it the next.Jess at www.mrshible.wordpress.comOur two have screen time but I limit them to 60mins maximum a day then they must turn it off and go do a activity away from the screens/ consolesGeorgina at www.geegardner.co.ukWe don’t have any set times as such for games as such but we do have break rules. After playing a game for half an hour she will come off for a snack or a drink and then go back on if she wants and more often than not she chooses to do something else. We havenever had set restrictions and it works for us. She spends more time drawing and reading than playing games. I think gaming gets really bad stick when in most cases it’s down to parents not understanding the games their children are playing. If parents lookedinto the games their children are playing and supervised them then half of the news stories wouldn’t make the papers because they wouldn’t exist.Mandi at www.bigfamilyorganisedchaos.comWe don’t have set screen time they are allowed on when they like but having seven children they don’t get long anyway!! They all know they are not allowed to play any game over their age limit but most of them prefer going to the beach or playing in the paddlingpool at the moment.Aleena at www.mummymamamum.comUntil about 6 weeks ago, we had screen times at set times during the day – 12-1:30 for my eldest (when youngest naps) and then 4pm-5pm while I cook dinner. The TV/screens simply don’t go on outside those times, so my kids are used to it. The last few weeks,however, I’ve also scrapped the late afternoon session because the weathers been so lush they’ve been playing outside anyway! We have a lot of music on during the day.Jen at www.justaveragejen.comI don’t give my son limits although he has to come down for all meals and I do every now and then insist he does something else. He has special needs and struggles to go out much so his social life is playing online with his friends and chatting school andstuff at the same time.