Channel 4 has inadvertently generated a storm on Twitter, by airing a news piece in which three 11-year-olds played Fortnite – even though the game has a 12+ PEGI rating.
The Channel 4 News item, which went out on 26 June and was fronted by Krishnan Guru-Murthy, was flagged on Twitter by the presenter, who wrote: “Tonight on #C4News what is it about #Fortnite that’s making it so addictive? Why are some calling for it to banned? And should all video games have a Child Impact Assessment? We created Gaming Heaven for a bunch of 11 year olds in the studio to find out.”
As the YouTube archive of the item above shows, it was a pretty balanced and sensible piece, with the 11-year-olds speaking honestly about their relationship with the immensely popular Battle Royale game. However, many Twitter users picked up on the fact that they shouldn’t have been playing Fortnite in the first place. Harry Neary, for example, pointed out: “Why have you got kids aged 11 playing a 12+ rated game?” And Elliot Barker added: “And see that is where the issue lies. Parents who aren’t paying close enough attention to the age ratings and freely letting their children download anything and everything. Parental controls exist for a reason but they definitely aren’t made obvious.”
In May, responding to a Daily Telegraph article entitled: “Fortnite and other video games risk ‘damaging’ children’s lives, Culture Secretary warns” Ukie CEO Dr Jo Twist addressed the subject of the importance of parenting in restricting children’s gaming habits: “The enjoyment of playing with friends online, in a balanced and safe way, is part of 21st Century life. There is no conclusive evidence linking games to addiction and it is right that we encourage families and carers to understand how they can balance screen time generally instead of demonising games. Young people and adults alike should enjoy all screen time safely and as part of an active and balanced lifestyle.”
Even though that wasn’t a subject which the Channel 4 News item explicitly addressed, it has turned out to be the main focus of the piece following the revelation that the Fortnite players were technically under-age. With the mainstream press staring to scrutinise Fortnite, as its popularity reaches unprecedented levels, we can expect similar controversies to crop up in future.