15 June 2018

Many pupils are enjoying playing the free multiplayer online survival game Fortnite at home. Parents should be aware that the game carries a 12 age rating because there are frequent scenes of mild violence. However this rating does not take into account further risks posed by its open chat facility.

In the game, players work collaboratively to survive in a hostile environment, involving combat against other characters controlled by the game or other players. There is cartoonish violence that might be disturbing to younger players. The most popular free version, Fortnite Battle Royale, sees up to 100 players entering the game, competing individually or in squads. The aim is to be the last player standing in the battle arena. The main safety concerns are around the unmoderated chat function - players can communicate by voice or on-screen with anyone they are playing with. We have already had complaints from children about bad language being regularly used.

If your child plays Fortnite then they are very likely to be exposed to bad language, and are also vulnerable to extremism or even grooming. If they have set up their own account with their email address and a username then they may have given away personal details. There are three levels of privacy: public, friends, and private (which is the safest) - do you know which setting your child is on? There is a setting to turn voice chat off, which would reduce exposure.

If you do allow your child to play, we would recommend that you talk to them about unwanted contact so that they know what to do if a player speaks to them in an inappropriate or nasty way, or asks them for personal details. We also advise parents against allowing children to use devices unsupervised in their bedrooms (or, worse, their older sibling's bedroom) - it's better for them to do it downstairs where you can keep an eye on what they are doing.

There is a feedback tool on Fortnite that allows players to report bad behaviour and you can also email the creators Epic Games through their website. For further information and guidance from a trusted source, try the NSPCC guidance. For further advice on online safety or to report and incident you can also contact the CEOP online safety centre.

Tags: e-safety NSPCC