Bleats

Everyone Wants To Blame Kids' Fortnite Addiction On The Game Instead Of Facing The Fact That It Has A Lot To Do With Parents Being Really Bad Parents

If you want to save your kid from Fortnite you can literally just unplug them.

You’re not going to believe it. A current affairs TV show found the answer to what’s warping the minds of the kids. And, wait for it, turns out it’s that hot new video game they’re all going crazy for.

Maybe you bumped into the 60 Minutes promo this past week. The “psychological emergency” and the “health warning” because our kids are literally giving themselves a ‘planned brain death’.

Sounds serious – high time we ban something.

Of course, what follows is a story about how games have gotten so good these days that people would rather do that all day than deal with real life.

That’s actually pretty reasonable. Games are awesome. It’s important to maintain a healthy media diet, just as one doesn’t leave the kids with a magic never-ending bag of lollies and expect them to eat carefully.

But for the genuinely sad cases of two tweenage kids featured on the program, they’re way down the path of pathological gameplay.

One kid hasn’t been to school for two years. The other has skipped out 50 days and stole a parent’s credit cards to buy all the sweet game loot.

From the outset, both are captured for the show lying down playing their favourite games on a big TV right there in their bedroom.

Maybe it’s just me scratching my head… what the hell are those TVs doing at the foot of the beds? Who decided that was a good idea?

Pushing away the voiceovers framing how insidious the games are for sneaking their way into the hearts and bedrooms of children everywhere, here’s the storyline as best I can make it out:

#1 Games are stunningly awesome these days, so kids would love to play them forever if they have the chance.

#2 Here’s two kids who have giant TVs and consoles in their bedrooms so they can play whenever they want without supervision.

#3 These same two kids had truly awful things happen in their lives – one had parents divorce, one had a mother get breast cancer – and they used gaming as an emotional crutch to get through tough times.

#4 Their parents didn’t pay any real attention to setting boundaries or punishing their kids for excessive gameplay and just sat on the sideline as their kids stopped participating in life.

#5 When asked why they don’t punish the kids or take their toys away, they both answer that it’s too hard and it’s not worth the effort because the kids lash out.

#6 The games are the bad thing.

Hmmm. Maybe, just maybe, parents need to actually parent?

News flash. Parenting is hard if you want kids to turn out to be good people. Talk. Set rules. Talk more. Participate. Talk again. Modify rules. Tweak. Rinse. Repeat.

But in this show, even in the face of one the the poor kids actually expressing he kinda wishes his parents would intervene, his mother says that “It’s not worth the abuse” because he throws a tantrum if they do.

These parents when they have to parent.

Turns out setting limits leads to tantrums, so they just gave up. Pretty sure that’s parenting 101: if you let the tantrum win, the kid learns to throw tantrums.

If this is such a critical health issue, as 60 Minutes wanted to suggest, it’s also pretty rotten to find no offer of links or resources for parents who really are struggling and in need of help.

Oh look, here’s one for how to set parental controls on consoles. Here’s another for Australian and NZ support services parents might find helpful. That wasn’t hard.

Of course, no one really learns anything from these segments. It’s moral panic du jour, reinforcing poor opinions and giving some the nice feeling “Phew, my kids are bad, but they’re not THAT bad!”

I asked Mike McRae, author of the new book about diseases Unwell, whether this ongoing effort to call games addictive has any basis in good science.

“There is nothing intrinsically dangerous about gaming, no more so than any other enjoyable activity,” said McRae. “We’ve simply been quicker to label gaming as addictive thanks to the fact society places a lower value on it as a pastime.”

“Addiction can be as much a feature of the home or social environment as about neurochemistry and enjoyable activities.”

Woah, sounds complicated. Let’s just blame the games. It’s so much easier when we just blame the games.

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