Thanks to the almost universal availability of home Internet, even a child’s own home may not be out of the reach of sexual predators. This is just one of many reasons that The OffenderWatch Initiative strives to educate parents and children as part of a larger strategy of uniting community resources. If families aren’t aware of how sexual predators operate, they don’t know all the steps they can take to keep their kids safe and aren’t able to teach their kids all the ways they can help keep themselves safe.
One online venue that could serve as a hunting ground for sexual predators is the wildly popular third-person shooter game Fortnite Battle Royale (typically referred to as just “Fortnite”). Many of the stories and news reports that have made the rounds have focused on the issue of so-called “Fortnite addiction”. For families whose kids either aren’t able or willing to spend too much time gaming, though, these cautionary tales don’t necessarily have much value in terms of helping them determine whether Fortnite is safe in measured amounts.
Fortnite is rated “T” (suitable for age 13 or older), although many experts and parents agree that a limited amount of gameplay is not likely to cause permanent harm to teens or even pre-teens. They note that the game’s violence, while undoubtedly central to its theme, is bloodless and cartoon-like. There’s also no real evidence that merely playing the game for a short time each day is enough to send a child into an ever-widening spiral of gaming addiction.
This news may not change the minds of parents who object to the game’s general premise, but it probably comes as a relief to many others. Since gameplay is free and accommodates multiple platforms, Fortnite draws players in droves. Even in households where strict online limits and supervision are the norm, it’s easy for parents to get worn down by constant questioning and demands from kids who are anxious to join in a game that so many of their friends are playing.
That doesn’t mean that Fortnite has zero child safety or security issues, however. As with any other online experience, parents still need to stay on top of certain issues to ensure that their kids can play without undue risk:
1. Restrict play to solo mode, or to a group of known and trusted friends only. As always, parents must be vigilant about who kids are spending time with online. By setting limits on how their kids can engage with other players, parents can retain a certain amount of control over the environment, offering fewer chances for their kids to be contacted by child predators—or anyone else with less-than-honorable intentions.
2. Consider turning off the voice chat feature, even if you have strict limits on who your kids are allowed to play with. Fortnite has no filters and both text and voice chat are unmoderated. While there’s no way to disable text chat in Fortnite, turning the voice feature off at least prevents your child from hearing chat content in real-time. Limiting to gameplay to only open areas of the home is also a smart ground rule, as is nixing use of a headset while playing.
3. Keep security settings as restrictive as possible. Several articles recommend enabling two-factor authentication to guard a child’s account. Another safety measure that may be just as important is talking with your kids about what they can do (avoid giving out their password, ignore or report unwanted contact, etc.) to make gameplay safer. To ensure that playing time doesn’t get out of hand, use parental controls to monitor and/or limit daily gaming, or consider buying an app that will allow you to do so.