Tech & Media
Fortnite Turned My Stepdaughter into a Zombie — But I Don’t Blame Her
By Janice Quirt
Photo © dariagrape/Twenty20
Sep 14, 2018
Every day, I have to make a series of decisions about what my kids are allowed to do on their screens, and how much time to allow them to do so. The requests feel endless: to watch YouTube videos of songs they like; to play Fortnite; to view a few shows on Netflix; and even requests that can be considered educational, like to look at different places in the world on Google earth or to search Greek mythology stories.
My kids are not even the most addicted when it comes to screen time, but they do like their iPads. And I can’t say that I blame them, seeing as how society portrays a complete double standard when it comes to technology.
Relevant Reading: How to Set Screen-Time Rules That Work
A lot of parents, myself included, advise tweens and teens to take breaks from social media. And yet in high schools, teachers ask students to take out their devices for online, interactive “learning polls” as part of a lesson. They claim to not have to worry about someone not having a device, because everyone has one. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? Is the reason that everyone brings a device to school because parents have heard, even anecdotally, that their children need one to participate fully in lessons?
We read (usually on our screens) about nature therapy, the benefits of getting outdoors and the perils of screen time. We suggest digital detoxes (usually over social media), and bemoan tween and teen addiction to Instagram and Snapchat. Yet all the while, society has made it very hard to actually do without screens.
Should I detox from social media? I’d love to, but several of my contracts involve me managing social media accounts. So I feel like a hypocrite when I set limits on my children’s screen time when they see that I have no such limit. I explain it’s for work, but I have an uneasy feeling that I would have a hard time going cold turkey without this excuse. But it's not just social media.
So I feel like a hypocrite when I set limits on my children’s screen time when they see that I have no such limit.
This summer thousands of hours were logged by kids playing Fortnite, or watching YouTube videos with Logan Paul and other popular vloggers. I saw it as a widespread epidemic. Once, I didn’t see my stepdaughter for almost a week as she stayed up into the wee hours of the morning playing Fortnite with friends scattered across town, and then sleeping until the afternoon in recovery. When she ventured outside her eyes weren’t used to the sunshine and she became dizzy.
I've noticed that many parents, at a loss as to how to deal with the Fortnite and YouTube craze, have cheerfully adopted the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” attitude and have made family time revolve around screens.
I told my son he was allowed to play Fortnite — within reason — because I didn’t want him to be the only 12-year-old who had never played. I am so very lucky that he said he didn’t want to, because he didn’t like to see how much time his friends spent obsessed with the game. For some, the only way to break the addiction was a week or a month at a cottage or camp with no internet or devices permitted. Effective, yes, but what about kids who didn’t have this enforced detox?
Relevant Reading: Managing Screen Time With Kids of Different Ages
I know parenting is hard, especially in this digital age, but am I really admitting defeat to a video game? Isn't there a way to limit the influence a YouTuber or a video game has on our children?
As a parent, I think there's work to be done at figuring out how to help our kids strike a balance with technology. Sure, it can open the door to amazing things. I’m not against using a computer to learn about ancient Egypt, or to look up books to take out from the library. But I do have a problem with a society that wakes up and immediately reaches for a device to move from this world to the digital one. But changing our kids' behaviours starts with us.
We have to find ways to reconnect our kids in a world that still exists beyond a screen — because if we can’t figure it out, how can we expect them to do so?
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