Manual Hazard of the Game: The Dangers of Over-Parenting in Sport and Life

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Half of year olds told us that they are not allowed to climb a tree without adult supervision or have been stopped from climbing trees because it's considered too dangerous.

Many children say they have also been stopped from playing ordinary childhood games such as conkers, chase and even hide-and-seek, because of the supposed dangers. Forty-two per cent said that they are not even allowed to play in their local park without an adult present. Children's play has long been understood to have a key role, both in their wellbeing and satisfaction as children, and in the development of their future life skills. Research indicates how vital to each of these functions is the uncertainty — the sense of danger, even — that children are impelled to seek out when they play.

It is not the "theme" that attracts them to theme parks, but the scary rides. Such entertainments, though, contrive the sense of danger without allowing children any discretion in their response, or requiring from them any development of skill. Just get strapped in, hold on tight and enjoy the ride.

Fortnite game craze is putting children at risk from online paedophiles, NCA warns

At real play, children are in charge, instinctively making hundreds of decisions as they assess and determine the levels of risk they want to take, physically, emotionally and socially: Throughout the animal kingdom, the play of the young is commonly observed to be a rehearsal of life skills, fundamental for species' survival. Human children are no different, needing the make-believe world of play to experience and master the fullest range of challenges — and their emotional responses to them — as a series of lessons for the world they will eventually have to negotiate for real.

So, through play, children acquire confidence, but also an awareness of limits and boundaries.

They learn, in short, how to be safe. As the popular American educator and broadcaster, Fred Rogers said, "Play is often talked about as if it were a relief from serious learning. But for children play is serious learning. Play is really the work of childhood". Modern worries and anxieties — and, it should be said, an outdoor world which really is less child-friendly then ever before — has led to a risk-averse culture that finds expression in overbearing health and safety policies which fail to weigh the benefits of a given activity against the risks involved.

Providers of children's playgrounds, in common with many public services, are in fear of litigation in the event of even minor scrapes. So they increasingly err on the side of caution, investing heavily in impact-absorbing surfaces and equipment that rigorously meets safety standards but often lacks real play value. And given its cheery, cartoonish look, it is reasonable to assume a large chunk of its vast player base is of school-going age. With so many children devoting hours to Fortnite there are fears it could cross the divide between hobby and obsession - and that its violence, however slapstick, may have an unhealthy impact.

Fortnite isn't the first mass online shooter to develop a fanatical following. The current leader of the pack is PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, a more realistic - and violent - title, developed by Irishman Brendan Greene and loosely inspired by The Hunger Games and cult Japanese film Battle Royale, in which a group of prepubescents are stranded on an island and instructed to eliminate one another by any means possible. What sets Fortnite apart is its child-friendly gloss.

The game is sparkly and bouncy and participants are encouraged to personalise their characters with gaudy outfits Santa costumes, dinosaur backpacks and so on. Battles typically last around 20 minutes, meaning a game can easily be squeezed in before homework but also giving it a moreish, one-last-go quality. It is this aspect of Fortnite - its powerful addictive tendencies - that has prompted alarm, with one Irish mother going on ITV's This Morning show to explain how Fortnite had negatively impacted on her son's behaviour.

Scare stories about video games have, of course, been ubiquitous since the 80s. Indeed, the parents whose children are playing Fortnite may have alarmed their families when, in their own childhoods, they developed an apparently dependent relationship with their Commodore 64 or SNES.

Should parents worry that their kids are playing Fortnite: Battle Royale?

What's changed is that we now know more about how video games can impact negatively on childhood development. Irish Independent Technology Editor Adrian Weckler points out that parents have a major role to play in protecting their child from becoming addicted to video games. For parents of teens, it's going to be trickier, especially if the teens are allowed to have their phones or tablets in their rooms at night.


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A related concern is the tendency of children to become obsessed with a particular niche subject in childhood. The stereotypical example is the six-year-old who can correctly pronounce the names of 50 dinosaurs and will roll their eyes when you confuse the Triassic and Jurassic geologic periods. One in three children is thought to develop this sort of intense interest, according to American studies - typically between the ages of two and six and with boys more likely to be affected than girls.

These obsessions usually begin to fade with the onset of 'middle childhood', typically identified as beginning around age seven or eight. Nonetheless, the evidence is that an intense childhood interest in dinosaurs, trains, the planets etc augers well for cognitive development. There is less agreement over the longer-term impact of exposure to video games. A study by Christopher J Ferguson, Professor of Psychology at Stetson University, Florida, found that video-game consumption was linked to a decline in youth violence rates, while an Oxford report suggested that time spent playing video games had a more harmful impact than the kind of game being played.

Editors Choice

We also know that the risks attached to game-playing are small Still, few would disagree that endless hours spent crouched over a video-game controller is not conducive to a healthy childhood. The US Army uses these types of games to recruit soldiers [and] to train them. You mightn't even know what that means. I know because I had to go to this psychologist or psychiatrist or someone, who did all these tests.


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She was nice enough, but the main thing I remember is that she brought me back after and told me I had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. They shorten it to ADHD.

Fortnite game craze is putting children at risk from online paedophiles, NCA warns

I remember it because I had to get her to write it down for me. My three-year-old daughter, took a while to settle into pre-school and only ever had one good week, before again becoming really unsettled, crying all-day, no matter what I or the pre In the last few months my year- old son has developed anxiety trying to go to sleep. He says that he gets worried that we will all be asleep and he will be left the only one awake on his Should parents worry that their kids are playing Fortnite: It's the latest must-play fad, but should parents worry that their kids are becoming addicted to 'Fortnite: Battle Royale', asks Ed Power Shoot to thrill: A child plays Fortnite: March 15 2: My daughter hasn't settled in pre-school and I'm wondering if I should Our son won't sleep alone.

Parenting Dear David Coleman: