Parents' Ultimate Guide to "Fortnite"

Are your kids caught up in the "Fortnite" frenzy? Here's everything you need to know about this popular video game. By Frannie Ucciferri
Advice,Conversation Starters | 1:15

The Fortnite frenzy seemed to come out of nowhere -- almost as if it dropped from a party bus in the sky. And now many parents are taking notice of this rollicking game where players fight to the death. With Fortnite's millions of players and sudden success, you might be wondering: What's it all about -- and is it OK for my kids? This survival-action game is a bit like what you'd get if you combined a sandbox-building game like Minecraft with an action shooter like Call of Duty. On one hand, it's getting major points with kids and parents alike for building teamwork and thoughtful collaboration. On the other hand, it's a combat-based game with tons of guns and violence. 

Want more tips on how to handle the Fortnite frenzy?
    Get the email series

Read Common Sense Media's full review of Fortnite, and learn more about how it works. Then find answers below to parents' most frequently asked questions about the game and how to use it safely.

What is Fortnite?
What is Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Do you play by yourself or with a team in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
What if I’m not ready for the action of Battle Royale?
What is Save the World?
Why is my kid so interested in playing Fortnite?
Is Fortnite appropriate for kids?
What age should kids be to play Fortnite?
How much does Fortnite cost?
Are there microtransactions in Fortnite?
What are Fortnite Seasons?

What platforms can you play Fortnite on?
How is Fortnite related to Twitch?
Can players chat with each other in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
How do you turn off voice chat in Fortnite: Battle Royale?

How long is a match of Fortnite: Battle Royale?
How do I manage screen time for my kids when they're playing Fortnite?
Is Fortnite addictive?

What is Fortnite?
Fortnite is a video game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, Mac, and mobile that takes elements from sandbox-building games and adds the fast-paced action of a third-person shooter. There are two modes to the game: a solo version called Save the World and the hugely popular multiplayer version called Battle Royale.

What is Fortnite: Battle Royale
If your kids say they're playing Fortnite, they're probably talking about Battle Royale, the free-to-play multiplayer offshoot of Fortnite. In this version, up to 100 people participate in a match together. Players are dropped onto the game map and must compete to be the last one standing by killing every other player in the game. During the game, players collect weapons, build safe structures, and try to avoid the Storm that damages all players outside of a safe zone. Unlike the Save the World version, there aren't any zombies to kill, which makes it a less scary version to play. However, players can buy items to make themselves look like a zombie or another creepy character.

Do you play by yourself or with a team in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
There are three modes of play in Battle Royale: Solo, Duo, and Squad. In Solo mode, you're dropped into the game alone. In Duo, you're dropped in with a partner. In Squad mode, you play on a team of four. Duos and Squads can either be friends choosing to play together or randomly matched players. All players in a match are playing in the same mode.

What if I'm not ready for the action of Battle Royale? 
Don't worry if you’ve never played Fortnite or a Battle Royale game before. Playground mode lets players get used to the mechanics of the game without the pressure of fighting other gamers. So, if you’re rusty with a particular gun, need to practice building structures, or even want to try out the vehicles like golf carts or shopping carts without being shot, this is the mode for you. Playground sessions are limited to a maximum of four players, and you can even put everyone on the same team to eliminate the possibility of friendly fire.

What is Save the World?
Save the World is the traditional solo campaign in the game Fortnite. Unlike in Battle Royale, where players compete against each other, players in the Save the World mode are survivors of an apocalyptic storm where the few remaining humans must band together to defeat creepy zombie-like creatures called husks.

Why is my kid so interested in playing Fortnite?
There are many reasons why Fortnite has taken off with kids. One is that it combines two other genres that are big winners with young gamers. Another is that it has a more cartoonish look than some other more gory video games, so younger gamers are drawn to it. Kids can play with friends in Duos and Squads, creating a more social element. (Read about a mom whose son made friends on Fortnite when he moved to a new town.) And popular YouTube and Twitch gamers like DanTDM have also taken to playing the game on streaming sites. Plus, in the case of Battle Royale, it's free (although it does have in-app purchases -- more on that below).

Is Fortnite appropriate for kids?
For some parents, the cartoonish, bloodless style of the action in Fortnite makes the violence less problematic than the aggressive gore in other popular shooter games. But the game's online chat feature -- especially in Battle Royale -- could expose younger players to offensive language or mature content from random strangers. Common Sense doesn't recommend games with open chat for kids under 13, but with the right controls and parental guidance, this can be a tween-friendly alternative to violent first-person shooters.

What age should kids be to play Fortnite?
Common Sense recommends Fortnite for teens 13 and up, primarily because of the open chat and action violence.

How much does Fortnite cost?
Players can currently download Fortnite: Battle Royale for free. The current cost of the full Fortnite is $39.99, although the developer, Epic Games, has suggested it will make that version of the game free-to-play sometime in 2018 as well.

Are there microtransactions in Fortnite?
There are frequent opportunities for players to spend real money on items in the game. Fortnite encourages purchases such as upgrades to editions such as Deluxe and Super Deluxe, as well as in-game currency called V-Bucks to buy bonus items. (Learn how online scammers lure kids into buying fake V-Bucks.) There's also the Premium Battle Pass, a $10 subscription that lets players compete on more levels and win exclusive game skins/costumes (although players can now compete in special promotions earn a free Battle Pass).

What are Fortnite Seasons?
Unlike other multiplayer games, Battle Royale has a storyline, which results in frequent additions of new content to the game. Many of these new elements, such as skins and costumes for characters, simply serve to keep the game fresh and exciting. But others introduce completely game-changing features. You might see a brand-new game map (without major features you're used to playing with), new teleportation rifts (to let you travel to new places), and new ways you can appear to other players (such as the ability to become invisible). Seasons seems to update approximately every 10 weeks and you'll begin to see clues to the updates during the current season.

What platforms can you play Fortnite on?
Fortnite is available on Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Windows, and Mac. Users need an internet connection to play. A mobile version is also available for iOS and Android. Players can play "cross-platform," which means a Windows player can be on a team with a console player, for example. Gamers can also create an account on any device and carry over their progress in a game to another system. For example, you could start on a cell phone, then pick up a game on a computer or console later in the day and continue where you left off.

How is Fortnite connected to Twitch?
Some kids aren't only playing Fortnite -- they're watching other people, including celebrities like Drake, play it on Twitch. Twitch is a social media platform for gamers where they can livestream themselves playing popular video games, including Fortnite. Livestreaming can be unpredictable, so make sure to check out which gamers kids are watching, and if kids say they want to livestream themselves, carefully consider the risks.

Can players chat with each other in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
There is live, unmoderated chat possible between users in the console and PC versions of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Both voice chat and on-screen text chat are options. This exposes players to random strangers and the likelihood of profanity. 

How do you turn off voice chat in Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main Fortnite page by selecting the three bars, then the cog icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can adjust several audio features, including voice chat. Turn the setting from on to off by tapping the arrows.

How long is a match of Fortnite: Battle Royale?
Each match in Battle Royale lasts about 20 minutes, although players who are killed early play for less time.

How do I manage screen time for my kids when they're playing Fortnite?
When each match only takes 20 minutes, it's easy to fall into the trap of "just one more" -- sort of how you end up binge-watching an entire season of Stranger Things. But you can take advantage of the quick matches by using them as a natural stopping point in gameplay. Some kids benefit from using a timer, limiting themselves to a certain number of matches per day, or using one of these tips for finding a balance between gaming and other activities.

Is Fortnite addictive?
The game has many elements that make it compelling to play, from characters with fun outfits and dances to always-changing weapons, landscapes, and challenges. And for kids who play with friends, the social and competitive aspects are hard to resist. But true addiction is a different story. Many researchers think it's possible to be addicted to video games. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have identified a condition called internet gaming disorder (IGD), which they say could be a kind of addiction, though more research is still needed. But IGD is rare and may be tied to other conditions such as depression and ADHD.

Jeff Haynes, senior editor, web and video games, contributed to this story. 

About Frannie Ucciferri

Image of blog author
As associate managing editor, Frannie Ucciferri makes sure each of Common Sense Media's more than 30,000 reviews and 700 curated lists is as complete and comprehensive as possible. Frannie is a graduate of UC Berkeley,... Read more

Add comment

Sign in or sign up to share your thoughts

Comments (33)

Kid, 10 years old

Fortnite is completely fine. It is a fun game with positive messages and teamwork. I am an avid Fortnite player and it is incredibly fun. Also Fortnite is quite addictive so maybe only let your kid play for 1 or 2 hours a day. Some people are saying that the Fortnite skins are inappropriate, but that`s not true. Some of the female skins have short skirts, but that`s about it. Fortnite is awesome...anyone can play it. If anyone has any questions, just ask in the reviews below and I`ll answer them. Fortnite is a great game and is EPIC! :)
Kid, 10 years old

Fortnite is very appropriate, for all you parents wondering. No blood, the just dissolve in pixels. Nothing inappropriate, no naked parts in skins, no inappropriate skins. I recommend you just go watch a gameplay on YT yourself, so you can decide. I do recommend you turn of chat, though. I think you don’t want your child kidnapped so tell them to tell you if anyone they don’t know asks them to meet up in real life. Nothing else that could possibly be very bad, like I said just check it out for your self. I think mobile would probably be a good start if you don’t wanna get an expensive console. Have a good day/night! ❤️
Kid, 12 years old

I’ll never understand battle royale, it’s basically FFA but with 100 to lag your internet. I understand Save the World gamemode, since I’m a big fan of PvE games.
Adult written by Bob the fries

Stop trying to make Fortnite look like it’s for adults. Stopping your kid playing what everyone is playing means your a monster. #boycottcommonsensemedia
Teen, 15 years old written by Dimondcrusher11

Fortnight is a horrible game as the save the world mode (witch is not a bad CONCEPT) is largely swept under the rug by the somehow more popular Battle Royale mode witch to my knowledge is the only part that epic games are working on. The graphics are beyond horrible and the gun play is excruciating as long ranged weapon like sniper rifles and the like are give not working patches only making the 90° rotation drop to a 60° drop. This also has another problem as people can’t play multiple role like a sniper, mela user, or a medic in group settings making only people how use weapons like assault rifles and and shotguns. And if you’re comfortable using just a shotgun well to bad and from my experience you rarely get the weapon you want in a version that isn’t gray ranked. Well what about explosives you might be thinking but I’m here to crush those ideas as the explosion ether don’t do enough damage take to long to detonate or aren’t thrown far enough and you have to run the other way to avoid taking damage.
Teen, 17 years old written by xd Flunkyy

omg omg omg I just chucked my pc out the window and my dad is asking what happened but he hasn't noticed that my pc is gone yet what should I do btw i came second if you're wondering.
Adult written by lhartness

Thank you so much for posting this review today. The notice of it just hit my email, and I am literally trying to decide how Fortnite is going to fit into my son's life today. This has been quite helpful. Thanks!!
Kid, 11 years old

I never got this game yet but I think that people who are playing this should know that guns are a danger. There is a study that says that most people who play violent games were ALREADY violent. It is not the game's fault that there is violent content. It is bad parenting to let a young child play games like shooters in the first place without teaching them how dangerous the content is.
Teen, 14 years old written by Brittain__davis

I sorta agree but lots of the kids are older that are playing Fortnite (Ninja, Faze members,etc) The kids that are playing (including me) we don’t really focus on guns in the game (“yeah we’re gonna shoot them up in real life”) we know (as teenagers) that guns can be dangerous. My younger brother basically started out on the “Call Of Duty” franchise and he also plays Fortnite, he understands that guns and other weapons can be dangerous. I feel like with everything going on in classrooms and in the world, lots of younger kids know that guns can be dangerous and that you shouldn’t play around with them. So personally I think If the parent monitors Fortnite, it’s not as dangerous as everyone thinks it is.
Adult written by Heh267

Reading these reviews and watching parts of this game cements our concern and decision for our son. Everyone has it he says but we are standing by our morals and not allowing him to play. The little good such as building forts and teamwork does not in any way change our opinion nor outweigh the violence and messages the game gives out. We are older parents with a lifetime of wisdom in not choosing this game. Conviction is strong and we can not go against that. Standing alone perhaps but standing strong in the Lord. I urge other parents to do the same. In the long run your kids will appreciate it and learn to stand against the tide also. Our son is learning to appreciate our wisdom and learning his own. He.s ok with not having it and understands. Standing alone he is but building character instead. We can t stand against guns in schools or elsewhere and sit by allowing our kids to play such a game. Gamers are smart and know what they are doing by creating these type games. Free is not really free. There's always a catch.
Adult written by csmchv

I respectfully disagree with your stance on this game. Creativity is the least taught skill in education, and this game feeds a child's creativity like few other. If you want to develop your childs creative side, I couldn't think of a better way. Sure you could tell them to read books, but imagine the respect that they would have for you if you let them do what they actually wanted and play the game. While I agree that standing alone on issues is good, withholding things like this cartoon game - and it is, you will never see blood, and is no more violent then some Looney Tunes cartoons - will increase the risk of your child rebelling, or sneaking opportunities to play this game, which increases the chances of your child lying to you. If they really want to play this game, and all of their friends are playing it, are you going to let them visit their friends? If so, that is what they are doing there, if not, they will lose friends. In my opinion, the best way to avoid your child growing up in a culture that isn't infatuated with guns is to simply stop watching the news. That is all they talk about. Since the creation of firearms there have been toy versions of the same, even sticks have been used as guns by kids. Computer games didn't invent gun games, and they certainly didn't invent gun violence. There is blood on many other hands for that.
Kid, 10 years old

Parents: listen to this. Fortnite is a sweet and funny game, a great way to communicate and play with your friends, and have fun. You might think that it`s violent, it IS, but it`s honestly not gory, there`s no blood, no swearing and only animated guns. You don`t slam to the ground when you die, a drone evaporates you into the air and your weapons appear on the ground for the other people to pick up. You can get spray paint, which is a picture on the ground. You can unlock new spray paint throughout the game. Also there are emotes. These are dances. You must of heard of Take The L! It`s a hilarious dance, used in the world. You can earn V-Bucks by getting kills and completing challenges. You can spend them on skins, dances, axes and gliders. You can kill people with axes, but it`s no more violent than shooting something. If you monitor how much your kids are playing, it`s fine. Sure, you can buy things in Store in Fortnite, but if you click on purchase, you have to type in a password. if you don't want your kids to buy things, then just choose a password that they don't know. It`s online, of course, but you don't have to chat to your team. You can disable chat (google How Do I Disable Chat In Fortnite?) so you can`t talk to anyone. Also you can only talk if you have a headset, and they cost quite a lot. People usually watch Fortnite gamers on YouTube - you know, Ninja, Myth, Lachlan, LoserFruit - who are all really skilled players but sometimes use bad language, so just check what they are going to watch before they watch it. Thanks for reading this, and I just want you to know that Fortnite is an absolutely AMAZING game! :)
Kid, 11 years old

I agree. Children should be monitored when playing Fortnite. I never played it before but I saw the trailer, it looks safe when watched under supervision.
Teen, 13 years old written by Fireball Slinger

If he/she plays on an Xbox, there’s a way you can see their hours on ALL games sent to you through email. However I’m not sure how to do this but you could Google it.
Parent written by MsResearch

Hi, I’m an adult sibling who helps out a lot with my brother, who’s going on ten, so I spend a lot of time on this site doing research for the benefit of the family. I’m wondering if there would be a difference in age recommendation between Battle Royale and Save the World, because my brother plays Battle Royale and is planning on begging our parents to purchase enough v-bucks for him to get Save the World tomorrow. From pictures online, I see the husks as up-to-interpretation. Upon close inspection they are indeed cartoonish and silly-looking, but when you zoom out and let your imagination start to fill in the blanks they get a bit creepier, and could certainly give kids with a tendency to ruminate some nightmare inspiration. Our main concern so far has been making sure that he only connects with pre-existing friends and understands that internet aggression and betrayal (like in Battle Royale) is easy to commit but harder to get over on the receiving end, how how to do so, and the importance of keeping frustration from translating into mean-ness, BUT I do not want the creepiness to affect his ability to sleep comfortably at night. Whew, that was longer winded than I expected. I would love to hear your input on this! :D
Teen, 13 years old written by Rayfossi

I don’t think fortnite is actually violent , at the end it’s gingerbread man shooting an astronaut, and there is no blood , it is a fun way for friends to communicate and play with each other, it is also creative, I’m gonna give you playground mode for example , u can build anything with the resources you have , but the only bad thing is that all skins are bought with v bucks which is bought with real money , so I would say that it’s for 10+
Adult written by ROBERT H.

Does anyone know if you can select who you are allowed to speak to in the Voice Chat part of Fortnite. My son really wants the headphones to talk to his friends, but I really don't want him conversing with 50 other strangers. Is there some sort of Friends Only setting for theVoice Chat?
Kid, 10 years old

You can just make your party invite only so you can invite your friends to play with you and no one random can join the chat
Parent of a 2 year old written by gilroy1414

If he is playing "Squads" with his friends it will only allow him to talk to his own squad on the mic
Teen, 13 years old written by Rayfossi

Hey , I’m he can make a party or invite his friends to the game and so he will only be talking with his friends , but u can never have more than 3 people talking to u , so there isn’t a 50 people voice chat , and if he is playing with people he’s doesn’t know, he can mute them , easy game bro
Parent written by curtisw1

I believe you can turn off the sound / mic for individual players when playing in squad mode, my eldest child routinely does this on PS4 for players he doesn’t know, so he only can hear his friends This is probably the best way to allow the function of talking to friends over internet without risk of grooming mentioned above
Parent written by Mabel63

Thank-you for your article. I'd like to mention the "scamming" aspect of the Save the World game, where players that are "scammers" can trick players out of their weapons and other items they have worked hard for. There are even some you tube videos out there where the scammer records the other players basically crying for their stuff back. Just something to caution kids about when they are playing the social mode.
Teen, 17 years old written by RobotPuppy4

Hi! Just so you know, you don't work hard for weapons. Most of the time its just chance if you get a Legendary AR or a Common Pistol. Also, you cannot give V-Bucks (The in-game currency) or skins to people, so it's your fault if you fall for a Free V-Bucks scam, or something like that. Also, there is no online multiplayer (With non-friends) in Save the World. And your weapons don't save. When the round ends, poof. Your weapons are gone. So Scamming isn't a long term thing. Thats all I gotta say. P.S. Sites like this are not good for finding info on how fortnite and other games work. If you want real info, watch your child play them, or google a "Lets-Play" of the game to see the game for yourself.
Adult written by gamer75

I've played Save the World on PlayStation 4 and while some missions have solo play, most are multiplayer and for myself it was all random matchmaking; I've had to play many missions with three strangers. My weapons saved as well; what's the point of the loot crates if you can't keep what you get? It's been a while since I played though I'm thinking they do eventually run out of uses or have to be repaired or something, but I most definitely used the same weapons numerous times.