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Stop Shaming Fortnite Kids

Dear Fortnite Parents,

I just saw the video that you made with the Holderness Family:

In this video, parents yank controllers out of the hands of their upset kids, forcefully turn off their tvs, and shut off gaming systems—all while their kids play Fortnite. One even dumps water on their kid’s laptop. Another legit tackles her sons while they’re playing, causing her to get a black eye from the stunt (never tackle children, please). These parents celebrate while their children scream. It became clear to me: these parents struggle to establish healthy boundaries with online games like Fortnite.

Whether the scenarios depicted in the Holderness Family’s latest video are real or staged, it needs to be said that parenting through shame tactics like these is dangerous. I’m a youth pastor and a father, and the most common issue parents at my church discuss with me? Getting their teen to be open and honest with them. Vulnerability, however, requires trust. Trust is broken when we publicly shame our children.

Yank the controller out of their hands if you want to set yourself up as the enemy. Let me know if your kid wants to engage in conversation about anything after that. Further, if you want to ruin your relationship entirely, film your kid-shaming skills. Then post it online. Seriously, if you found out that another kid was shaming your kid—then sharing it with the hopes of going viral—you would be furious. It is called cyber-bullying.

Look, I get it. You’re frustrated with your children’s lack of healthy boundaries with online gaming. But first, let’s build up trust. Here are some suggestions:

Communicate with your child

Before you get to the point where you want to yank the controller out of their hands, ask why they like the game they play. Work up to a conversation where you can talk about balance. The video states that summer is over and school is starting, so it’s time to put Fortnite away. But rather than immediately taking games away, talk it out. Strive to help them understand the responsibility required to engage school, family, and other activities well. Help them understand that gaming is even more enjoyable when engaged in moderation. Continue to ask about the things they love and make a conscious effort to really listen.

Make gaming a tool and not an enemy

When I was growing up, I couldn’t play video games until all my homework for the night was done. Even then, I was only able to play for a set amount of time. There were clear consequences if I failed to respect the boundaries—I’d lose the ability to play for the rest of the week. This simple suggestion shaped how I prioritize my responsibilities against my gaming hobby.

Set the example

Our children have much to learn. They need us to teach them. Living a balanced life comes from their observance of us as parents. If we want our children to not play games all day, we need to model how to live without being on our phones when spending time with our families. Maybe establish an electronics-free day:  give them more attention than you give your own Facebook or Instagram account. We must be the example setters for our children.

Taking the controller away might feel like a quick fix, but it does not help establish a healthy understanding of priorities. I don’t have perfect answers, but I hope these suggestions help you. Lets not shame our kids. We‘re not the enemy and neither are they. You can have a healthy conversation with your kids.

The best time to set up healthy Fortnite boundaries was in 2017, the second best time is now.

Love, Fortnite Dad

Zach is a youth pastor at Valley Shepherd Nazarene, in Idaho. He loves God, his wife, his children, video games, board games, and being up to date on anything techy. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @ZachWCarpenter.

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