Ask the Expert: What should parents do if their child's obsessed with gaming?
Q: MY 14-year-old son is obsessed with the computer game Fortnite – he lies about how long he's been on it, it causes lots of rows, and I keep banning him from using it. What can I do, and is this a problem other parents are having?
A: Siobhan Freegard, founder of parenting site ChannelMum.com, says: "As the mother of a teen boy, I understand exactly what you're going through. Fortnite is the biggest kids' gaming phenomenon of the decade, so there are always going to be some children whose use is over the top, with our research showing families average 11 arguments a month due to it.
"Banning it altogether will cause a 'Battle Royale' in your home and could alienate your son further, so the key is to stay calm and look at it first from your son's point of view. Fortnite has become so hugely successful as it's a social game. Unlike old-style video games, which pit players against the console, Fortnite allows up to 100 people to play together, with classmates or children from a local area all working as a team. If you ban him from the game, he'll feel excluded from this social group – and that's very upsetting when you're only 14.
"On the positive side, our research found that three in five parents said playing Fortnite has improved their child's hand-eye coordination, while a third admit it's boosted their child's confidence. So don't alienate your son by rubbishing what he loves. Instead, talk with him at a quiet time and say you can see the benefits and you're happy for him to play occasionally – but his use must be sensible.
"I'd recommend ensuring he plays within sight and earshot of you, so you can monitor the time he spends on the game, or set a timer so he knows when he has to come off – and stick to it. There will be rows at first, but it's better than trying to ban him altogether and see him flout your authority.
"Also, turn his love of the game to your advantage. Get him to do chores to earn cash for 'V-bucks', the game's e-currency. And if he behaves well or achieves in school, reward him with extra time on the game. Be smart and it's one battle with your kids you'll win.
"Here are some more tips: Get [children] out and exercising by organising a real-life Fortnite party in your local woods or park. Ask your kids to teach you the dances – they're great for getting in shape. And Make sure your device is password-protected by you, to stop your kids grabbing extra screen time, and check you don't have a linked credit card for them to buy 'V-bucks' on."