PARENTING BATTLE: FORTNITE VS. CELL PHONE
By: Dr. Kim Leis-Keeling
The “battle bus” drops the “skins” off to skydive into this virtual apocalyptic world. The world is an island where the last man to survive, wins. Gamers must deploy strategies to stay out of the “storm” which will push players together and force battles so gamers can’t just hide out until the end. This is similar to strategies used in the arena of the “Hunger Games” movies. Sometimes gamers will have to “build battle” to get an advantage and gain higher ground. And of course you can spend your “V-bucks” to make your skins look cooler with new “skins” and “back bling”. Okay, if you have teens, you are very familiar with this language. If you are past this stage of life…be thankful!
As parents, gaming is maddening. It’s all kids talk about and want to do. There is lots of screaming involved and the glory dances if they win. Winning in Fortnite is a big deal! You should celebrate this moment with your child! Just image they won the National Spelling Bee or something noteworthy and tell them how proud you are of them. This is a bonding moment so don’t miss out – they are hard to come by as children get older. I can relate to this gaming enthusiasm…back in 1985, I got past level 3 of Pacman!
So is Fortnite and gaming all bad? Each time I’m faced with a parenting dilemma or situation, I ask myself a few questions: How can I relate to this? What was something from my childhood that is similar in situation? How did I handle it and how did my parents handle it? Do I wish my parents would have done something different for a better outcome? What would my children be doing if they weren’t playing Fortnite (or other annoying teen activity)?
The worst part of Fortnite is that in order to win, you have to kill your opponents. Okay, here is where you consider the maturity of the child as see if they are ready for this type of game. In addition, have a conversation about your personal morals and values on guns and their place in this world. “Killing humans is not okay…this is just a game…in real life there are guns and they are not toys”…elaborate as you see fit. Have this conversation frequently.
I’m an optimist so here is my perspective on the positive aspects of Fortnite vs cell phones.
The chiropractic mommy in me is happy with upright head posture of gaming versus looking straight down at a cell phone. Long term we are all damaging the discs in our necks from flexing forward to this degree. Also, there is less eye strain looking at a larger TV screen versus the 2x4 inch cell screen.
They are playing with friends, socializing and having fun. I remember spending my summers on the farm in the country where I did not see my friends or classmates for 3 months. We had 3 television channels and cartoons were only aired on Saturday mornings from 7:00-10:30. We actually had to get up early to watch the cartoons.We had no organized sports or activities until 7th grade. No library or access to books. Talk about a boring summer. I lived on a farm so we worked every day. I would have loved to be this connected to my friends at this age. Personally, I love to overhear the conversations that the kids are having with their friends through the headsets about school, sports, pop culture and the random “Hey Dude, what kind of underwear do you wear?"
They are learning how to use strategies to defeat the other gamers. This will trigger some neurons in their brains to have to think about their next move. Think of it as the modern day “Chess game” – I know, it’s a stretch. But I would rather have this activity than watching my children mindlessly listen to a conversation between SpongeBob and Patrick talk about crabby patties or watching any show on the Disney Channel. In addition, I don’t have to listen to the background music of Minecraft anymore, which can put anyone into a hypnotic trance.
They are focusing on something that involves concentration for longer than 2 seconds. Games often last 15-20 minutes so don’t bother asking them to do anything until the game is over. You will hear “I’m in the middle of a game”! The alternative activity to Fortnite for most teens is to scroll Instagram and Snapchat. Both which are training their brains to focus on information for 1 second. This lack of concentration spills over into communication with our children…have you noticed they can’t follow a conversation with more than 3 sentences? You need to get your point across in 2 sentences or you have lost them.
Determination to win and succeed. Games encourage the competitive spirit which drives the desire to win. I recently read this book called “GRIT” by Angela Duckworth. A great book for anyone - especially parents. She has studied success in various disciplines including the cadets at West Point. The number one factor in determining someone’s success in life is not their grade point average or academic achievements but rather their “Grit”. Successful graduates of West Point are the grittiest people, those who stick with something until the end…endure the hardships and persevere to the end of the goal. They follow through! The book offers guidance as to how to harness this quality in our youth. She did not mention recommending to play Fortnite…but rather extracurricular activities in general that provide both 1) some type challenge and 2) something the kids want to do (sports, music, LEGOs, etc).
Obviously, as with any device used by children, parental setting should be employed and use common sense time limits on all screen time. As always, if you have questions about this article please feel free to contact me at the Sports & Spinal Wellness Center at 518-869-3415. Follow us on Facebook or visit our website at www.sportsandspinalwellness.com.