Have your kids mentioned Fortnite, the latest video game craze?
Some youth have taken to playing the game for hours at a time, forgoing homework, time with friends and family, and even their personal hygiene.
More than 200 million people have registered to play Fortnite and according to an article in Bloomberg News, some desperate parents have sent their children to video game rehab.
Video games must be deep-seated in the adolescent brain, you might wonder. But video game addiction isn’t new. First there was the Atari (remember all the fun playing Frogger?) then the original Nintendo, then PlayStation, followed by a host of others. Some like to blame video game addiction on the latest craze, but this type of behavior has been around for a long time.
What’s different about Fortnite is that it’s happening at the same time a broader debate about kids and smart phones (and social media platforms) is happening. There’s even a push for parents to band together and wait until a kid enters 8th grade before handing them a smart phone.
There are similarities in these debates — video games and smart phones — says Patricia Student, an APRN at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center, whose specialty focuses on mental health of children and teens.
“There needs to be rules with video games and smart phones, and they need to be level across the family otherwise kids see this as an inequality,” Student said. “If you have rules about no phones after dinnertime, this applies to the parents, too.”
Not all is lost if your child loves screens. Kids socialize differently nowadays, Student explained, compared to 10 or 20 years ago, so that is part of a video game’s appeal.
“We don’t have neighborhoods like we used to, where the kids would walk outside and play together,” she said. “They do socialize on these multi-player video games on the Internet.”
If you’re worried about your child’s video game proclivity, Student suggests you set rules and stick to them. You need to see who and what your children are involved with, she said. Get to know the parental controls and use them when appropriate.
Perhaps your family can start observing a reading hour or taking more outings together.
“Sit down as a family at dinnertime,” Student suggested. “It’s important to teach children to do a diverse range of activities, including having conversations with the family.”
For more information on video game addiction and how to speak with your child about it, speak with your Lahey Health provider.