‘Fortnite’ made me world’s meanest mom — and I’m fine with it

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I am the meanest mom in the world: I won’t let my kid play “Fortnite Battle Royale.”

My objections may be futile — with 200 million registered users, “Fortnite” is more popular than porn. But we all have our lines in the sand, and this is mine.

I know all the pro-“Fortnite” arguments: It’s social! It’s bonding with dad! It’s only cartoon violence!

Here are seven reasons why it’s awful — and still off the table for my kid.

The alarming weapons roster. Even though the violence is bloodless, the weapons are real — and scary. They include shotguns, submachine guns, semi-automatic sniper rifles and pistols. We’re raising our son to know that guns aren’t fun: they kill people and animals. Letting him play a game like this would send one hell of a mixed message.

The do-or-die premise. One hundred wannabe-killers are dropped on an island with the goal of being the last man standing? The jury may be out on how violent entertainment impacts kids, but there’s no way teaching your kid to identify with a killing machine can be great for development.

Its cartoon violence. Frankly, if kids are going to be “picking up” submachine guns, they should know the real results: Blood and guts, victims screaming, families sobbing on the news. Think your kid’s not ready for that? Then they’re not ready for this, either

It’s interfering with school. In 2018, 27 percent of teens surveyed by Common Sense Media reported playing “Fortnite” in class. Something to brag about on those college applications.

It’s costing me money. Remember when kids saved their lawn-cutting money for a new bike? Now they’re blowing it on “Fortnite” extras, including “skins” (costumes) and accessories. That’s how Epic Games made more than $2.4 billion from “Fortnite” — an otherwise free game — in 2018, according to Nielsen’s SuperData. Also: That pocket change comes out of my pocket. No thanks.

It’s killing IRL playdates. Whatever happened to meeting your friends at the park, or even getting together to play Wii? Hanging out online, as kids do for “Fortnite,” is sometimes okay, but it’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction with your peers.

It’s like kid crack. Some research says that video games flood our brains with dopamine — the same happy chemical that rushes in when you win a poker game, shoot heroin or eat chocolate. “Fortnite” and other video games are inherently designed for this Machiavellian purpose — to deliver small rewards that hit the brain’s pleasure center, compelling players to come back for more.

This illustration picture shows the video game Fortnite logo displayed on a tablet in Paris, on February 18, 2019. (Photo by Lionel BONAVENTURE / AFP) (Photo credit should read LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

Are there times when I feel guilty about my “Fortnite” ban? Of course — especially when he feels shut out of his friends’ relentless conversations about it. (It’s like not sporting Air Jordans in the ‘80s!) But I’m not a total digital dictator. My son’s obsessed with FIFA 19 and is on screens 24/7.

So I can’t really be the worst mom, right? I decided to ask a leading national expert in video game research.

“Older adults tend to freak out about any youth trend. The data do not support that there’s any epidemic of game addiction,” says Chris Ferguson, a psychology professor at Stetson University in DeLand, Fla. “You’re thinking about this and looking for data. That certainly doesn’t make you the worst mom ever. I’m sure your son doesn’t really think so either!”

That’s another discussion for the ages.

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