For many people, social media is a lot like coffee. Spending time on it may give an initial high, but it can lead to addictive behavior. These are often followed by periodic lows when expectations are not met. Because of this, researchers now believe video games, such as Fortnite, are a better alternative. In fact, one National Research Group study illustrates that Fortnite benefits far surpass the momentary high people receive from a few likes and shares on social media.
The study notes that the more people plug into social media, the more disconnected they feel. Critics may say the same of video games, but it has one clear disadvantage. While people often live behind a mask of feigned happiness or success on social media, video games like Fortnite help adolescents and adults to connect with and express their truer selves in a global and inclusive community.
Outlet for Self-Expression
Fortnite benefits include a healthy escape from reality. Children who may be bullied at school or have very few friends, now have the chance to be a part of a global community. Dr. Courtney Bolton, an expert in parenting and child development, agrees that video games do provide a healthy escape but questions whether or not Fortnite is the right vehicle for this.
“Games, like Fortnite, tend to increase aggression and anger and decrease social empathy and connectedness even when kids are playing with one another,” she tells Parentology. “Other games, like Crystals of Kaydor or Mightier, have been shown to improve emotional regulation and build empathy by using prosocial messages. So, we know, the content over the delivery system is to blame.”
She adds, “More recently, a study out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrated that within two weeks of playing a game that required communication and building relationships, children showed an increase in connectivity in areas of the brain responsible for the development of empathy.”
Provides Stress Relief
Sometimes it is possible to escape stress without relieving stress. This is one of the major complications of seeking out potential distractions, rather than facing a problem head-on. The study shows that Fortnite provides both a distraction and an avenue for emotional release.
Ryan Wexelblatt, a licensed clinical social worker and the founder of Ride the Wave Counseling, specializes in working with boys. He agrees but advises parents that there are two sides to this coin. What may provide stress relief for children may cause stress for parents when they try to moderate the amount of time children spend playing games.
“If they are played in moderation and are age-appropriate, they can be a good stress reliever. [However], the research on video games shows that they activate the same ‘pleasure centers’ of the brain as recreational drugs,” Wexelblatt tells Parentology. “So, while they may be a healthy escape for some, they can lead to compulsive use or even addiction for others.”
One Forbes article noted that children who played video games showed more prosocial behaviors and experienced higher life satisfaction than those who did not; however, the key is moderation. While video games like Fortnite may provide a great creative outlet and connection tool, experts in child development caution that playing too often can lead to a decrease in empathy while increasing aggression and other negative behaviors.