A special thanks to ParentLife writer David Thomas for permission to post this blog. Read more about his counseling ministry, meet Sissy Goff and Melissa Trevathan (the rest of the team), order their books, or join the blog for Technology Tuesday each week at www.raisingboysandgirls.com.
A day doesn’t go by where I don’t hear something about Fortnite. It’s the game the majority of boys (of all ages) seem to be talking about these days. It was something completely different a year ago, and chances are good it will be something completely different a year from now. But for today, it’s Fortnite. Though it’s rated “T” for Teen, many parents of younger boys are allowing boys to explore it.
Many parents have compromised because of its cartoonish nature or the lack of profanity or blood. There are sites and commentaries arguing the advantages of strategic thinking, teamwork, and creativity. Equally so, there are sites and commentaries arguing it’s still violent and how the online nature still exposes younger players to the offensive language of other players.
Wherever you land in your decision on Fortnite … or Minecraft … or Call of Duty … or whatever game takes the boy world by storm next, let me encourage you to make sure your son spends more time in reality than in virtual activity. Make sure he spends more time kicking a real soccer ball than playing FIFA 2018. Make sure he spends more time having real conversations that don’t involve wearing a headset and do involve reading nonverbal communication and making eye contact. Make sure he spends more time talking with real people than texting.
Make certain he has a context like scouting or playing sports, being a part of a robotics team or a climbing club, a book club or youth group, student government or volunteering … places where he experiences real teamwork, human interaction, strategic thinking, creativity and practicing empathy.
Absolutely let him have time to enjoy video games (with limitations) as a means of practicing regulation. I talked with a single mom recently that told her 14-year-old son she has three rules for gaming.
- You gain 5 extra minutes the following day for turning it off without arguing. You lose 15 minutes the next day for battling me when it’s time to shut it down.
- I can’t control what you hear when you have the headset on. But if I hear you repeat something profane or disrespectful, the headset is put up for a week.
- Every time you turn the system off, you owe me 20 minutes of physical activity to counter the effects of sitting still and being plugged in.
This mom is choosing to let his engagement with gaming serve as a vehicle for strengthening his ability to regulate himself.