If you have children, or grandchildren, aged between eight and 18 it is likely that you have heard of the game everyone is talking about, Fortnite.
It seems that every home has been touched by this latest craze (oh how I wish it was slime and loom bands again) which has taken the world by storm.
I have to admit that I only recently heard of the existence of Fortnite: Battle Royale (to give its full title). I am not naive enough to think my two girls haven’t played it, but maybe they just aren’t as bothered as others, or maybe they just aren’t telling me.
At first the game – which is free to download, which may go some way to explaining its popularity (more than 40m people worldwide at last count) – seems harmless enough. I have friends who have sons and they have been increasingly worried about the violence in many games popular with their teens – and even pre-teens. And so Fortnite, with its cartoon graphics and sense of humour could be seen as harmless. However, I hasten to add, the entire premise of the game is to win a battle with or against 100 other gamers.
But it seems to be the addictive nature of the game that has got parents and some experts worried.
The recent example of a nine year old girl sitting for hours on a urine- soaked cushion because she couldn’t drag herself away from the screen must have sent shivers down every parent’s spine. The little girl, as that is what she is, is now receiving therapy for her addiction. Her parents had no idea she was getting up in the middle of the night to play the game.
Then there are other stories of children racking up a tidy sum on parents’ credit cards by buying in-game purchases. Some parents are reporting children running up bills of up to £100 buying the game’s currency ‘V Bucks’.
This is not unique to Fortnite but it is worth keeping an eye on if your child is a player of the game. To avoid any unexpected bills, it’s important to make sure your child can’t use your card within the game without your authorisation. But it is also important to know which platform they are playing on as payment varies between devices.
Concern has also been raised by the National Crime Agency about the risks to children from paedophiles using the game to groom them. They advise parents to play the game with theit children to ensure they are not talking to anyone dangerous.
I have to say I am quite relieved that my children, for once, seem to have escaped this latest craze. But they say many of their friends, particularly the boys, are playing the game for hours after school. They use it to interact with their friends, they say, which is good but when does it stop being fun and become an obsession?