Wednesday 16 January 2019

Dear David Coleman: My son is teased because he doesn't play 'Fortnite'

'My son's friends are calling him a nube because he doesn't play Fortnite'
'My son's friends are calling him a nube because he doesn't play Fortnite'

Question: My 10-year-old boy is very into his music and outdoor play. He was never into PlayStation, nor felt he had to be like everyone else... until he returned to school. Now he’s being called a “Nube” because he doesn’t play Fortnite. It never bothered him before about gaming, but now he’s feeling really under pressure and excluded over this. I’ve explained to him that he shouldn’t feel the need to want this game to fit in, but to him it is a huge deal. It breaks my heart to see him so upset and I’m not sure what to do. Any advice would be appreciated. /b>

David replies: I had a similar query recently about a 10 year old who felt he’d lost all his friends because he himself wasn’t interested in playing Fortnite, and they were. In your son’s case it sounds a little different in that he now does want to play Fortnite, so that he can avoid teasing and be part of the general chat and banter about the game with his classmates.

For those parents who haven’t come across the term “nube” it is a shortening of “newbie” which is often used to describe someone new to a situation who lacks knowledge and experience. By the sound of it, your son’s friends are using it to suggest that anyone without experience of Fortnite is some kind of loser.

I could see why your son might be very upset.

We can all probably remember occasions of feeling left out if, for example, we weren’t allowed watch a particular programme that our friends watched. Not only might we have felt left out, there may also have been some kind of implied criticism that we too were “losers” because we weren’t watching it.

Being part of whatever fad, fashion or current trend is a big deal for children and young teenagers. Feeling excluded and teased about not being part of the trend is difficult and I don’t think it is fair for us, as adults to minimise it or disregard it. In the current world of fourth to sixth class pupils, Fortnite is still the hot topic and all-consuming interest among most children, although with luck its popularity might wane soon. I’m not clear, from your query, whether, alongside his previous disinterest in gaming, you also don’t want him to play Fortnite.

If so, then he may also be upset that your restriction is adding to his sense of exclusion.

While it may be the case that “he shouldn’t feel the need to want this game to fit in”, the reality is that he does desperately want to fit in, having had his first experience of feeling left out. Playing Fortnite is one route to achieving that goal of being part of what is important to all his friends. It is a difficult situation for families when we have to balance our own opinions, beliefs and values about what is good or safe for our children, against that need for our children to feel socially connected with their peers.

If it wasn’t happening now with Fortnite, it may have happened with a “need” for a phone, or to be able to go to the disco, or to have a certain brand of shoe and so on.

If this issue is such a huge deal to your son, it might be worth asking him what he’d like to do about it. You may be surprised by how well able he is to problem solve. If, for example, he just wants to be able to play Fortnite, and you are okay with it, there is no problem.

If you don’t want him to have it at home, then you need to show lots of empathy about the tricky situation he’s in, and work hard, with him, to find some kind of solution that allows you to hold the line of no Fortnite at home, but allows him to feel like he can shrug off his “nube” status.

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