Fortnite is proving popular.
Fortnite is proving popular.

Why the kids’ iPad should be locked away

THIS brave new world is doing my old head in.

First it was Minecraft, then it was Roblox, now, apparently, it's Fortnite.

My children have yet to jump on this latest computer craze but I'm giving it, well, a fortnight until I start to hear the whining of little voices begging me to download the game so popular that NRL players simulate its actions in try-scoring celebrations.

In February, Fortnite achieved a record-breaking 3.4 million people playing at the same time, with the title also now the most-watched release on the world's largest video game-streaming platform, Twitch.

But I have been warned. My social media is filled with fellow parents asking others for advice on how to curb their kids' addiction to this online game.

"Fortnite: Battle Royale"

There's the usual warnings about excessive violence, crude language and how it puts children at risk from online paedophiles.

Let's just take a moment to digest that.

How deeply disturbing is it that our kids are hanging out in the digital equivalent of dirty public toilets?

It is so difficult to parent through this digital distraction. Especially because it means I have to look up from Facebook, Instagram or Netflix.

I hate technology. But I love it. I want to ban it. But we need it.

Show me a parent who isn't struggling with the i-nightmare, and I'll show you a parent who's given up. Or lives in a wi-fi black spot.

Kids are plugged in and switched on into their tablets.
Kids are plugged in and switched on into their tablets.

The new catchphrase is green time over screen time. Get the kids not just off the device but out the door; remind them the digital world isn't a patch on the real one.

As the first generation to parent these i-kids, we're in uncharted territory. We restrict their gaming to whatever the latest advice suggests, but the goalposts constantly move. Current advice for kids over the age of eight seems to be, do what feels right.

Great, thanks for the help Captain Obvious.

Every single parent I know is struggling to find the balance. Which is like trying to find the balance with a heroin addiction.

Kids love their technology these days.
Kids love their technology these days.

And yet schools are a major supplier.

I was all for simply not introducing extra screens to our family. We already had a laptop, smart TV, two iPads and two iPhones in working condition (plus a drawer full of old ones which seem to multiply, springing forth fresh leads and chewed up chargers every time I look).

The kids managed to sneak plenty of play time on these devices, but the adults' need for telecommunication self-regulated their use.

Kids love Fortnite
Kids love Fortnite

But then came homework.

What I would give for a simple worksheet of maths problems. Instead it's all online programs and forums which take longer for me to figure out than for the kids to actually work through.

It's home work all right.

It also meant that my laptop was being regularly commandeered by kids with sticky fingers.

So that was it. At Christmas we surrendered to the new world order and bought the kids their own iPads.

Life has never been the same.

But what worries me most of all is the looming presence of high school - the arbitrary age at which children seem to be issued their own phones.

For those of us parents who want to stand firm against this next onslaught of digital destruction, there is very little support.

It's hard to campaign against distracting devices when certain subjects advocate for their use in class and most schools - and the State Government - refuse to ban them.

Technology is changing our lives.
Technology is changing our lives.

It is beyond my comprehension as to why phones are allowed in classrooms. Honestly, what do the kids need them for?

Bring the phone to school if you must but it should be locked away between 8.30am and 3pm.

If you need to contact a parent, go to the office. If you need to photograph notes, let the teacher do that and email it out. Or, you know, use your pen and take notes.

Why should our teachers be given yet another task? They do plenty without needing to police phone usage.

Schools seem to think that banning phones would be an unpopular decision with parents. With students, maybe. With parents? Hell no!

Life hasn’t been the same since Ann’s kids got their own iPads.
Life hasn’t been the same since Ann’s kids got their own iPads.

Meanwhile, they're playing with fire.

Remember the drama over the dismissal of deputy principal Rohan 'Brownie' Brown at Melbourne's Trinity Grammar? All down to a mobile phone video taken by a student.

The next PR disaster is just waiting to happen, played out IRL on our social media screens.

Why wait to deal with the dramas? Let's see our schools be proactive and protect both students and teachers alike. Parents will be eternally grateful.

It won't happen overnight, it may take longer than a Fortnite, but it must happen.