I was on a press trip recently that brought together friends of mine from different parts of the country. Blogger & PR friends that I had known for a long time. But they did not know each other till they met in Mexico.
Ironically, their ten year olds were already good friends with each other. They were also comfortably established on “inside joke” level friendship with my inlaw’s same aged kids.
Why? Fortnite on the Xbox
In this particular case, my own ten year old son is the “hub”.
Kids are meeting via their own social networks, which if we are lucky, we are still a part of
To be clear, none of my friends who have let their kids play with my son are particularly lax parents. They know I’m around when my kids are playing the game. They know that we all have similar rules about who it is, and most definitely is NOT ok to play with. My friends know me, and my son and know that the people that my son plays with generally vetted – they are either the kids of friends, or cousins, or our close by neighbors.
It leads to some interesting and unpredictable friend configurations, amongst the friends of my peer’s offspring. For example, while my son was away at camp, his cousins played more with some of my blogger friend’s kids. Our neighbors played with the kids of assorted PR/marketing reps that I know.
Even when you feel “safe”, as my friends do with my son and his vetted cadre of fellow players, there is room for confusion. Trying to keep track of who is playing with who, and how they know each other can be tricky. The kids all refer to each other by their xbox names, which further obscures the relationship.
Some quick and simple guidelines for parents:
Don’t be put off by the weird user names, particularly on Xbox. They are often computer generated. I am “GnarlySpy” on mine. Make a cheat sheet so you can easily recognize who is playing, and note any newcomers to the social gaming circle.
Check in frequently to see who your friend is playing with, and how they “know” each player. Expect to hear “Oh he/she’s a friend of cousin Bob’s that lives down the block. Be prepared to confirm that with Cousin Bob’s parents.
Install your xbox/gaming system somewhere central that you will be able see/hear/pop in on your kids.
Always insist on knowing all gaming account passwords, and know how to log in if necessary. No secret accounts for anyone under 18 in my house!
Watch/listen in occasionally, preferably unannounced. This is a good idea both because it helps you make sure your kids are not playing with predators, despite all you have done to warn and monitor them, and because you will learn things… You will quickly discover whose kid is a bad sport and which neighbor kids curse like sailors. Just in case you were wondering where you kid picked up that f bomb habit. Or maybe your kid is the f-bomber, either way, good to know!
Make sure you are not speaking freely about the neighbors in the same room when you kid is playing xbox (possibly with the neighbors) because guess what? You are on speaker! Really any sensitive subjects, etc should not be discussed when kids are present and/or online. Just because they are distracted on your end, doesn’t mean someone else is not listening in on the other end.
For me, watching Fortnite and talking about Fortnite is even less exciting than watching paint dry, or rolling socks. But the fact that my kids know I can hear them and might drop in at any moment, keeps them from making many bad decisions. It also makes them feel like the thing that is so important to them right now, isn’t totally off my radar. Generation gaps are so easy to get lost in. This is a small bridge to build.
Just like we made friends with friends of our friends via Facebook and other social networks, our kids are making friends with friends of friends on platforms like Xbox. Sometimes that can be a win. I kind of like it when I introduce two of my good friends who live thousands of miles apart, and they discover that their kids are already besties.