Q: As much as I wish that racial tension would diminish in America, it seems like it just won't go away. I'm concerned about the effect this has on my young children. What's your advice?
Jim: Racism has been a stain on our country for generations. And unfortunately, it will never end unless parents take an active role in educating our children about how to treat others with respect.
I encourage you to engage your kids in conversations about different cultures. Talk to them about how other groups of people live their daily lives or how they celebrate holidays. Our children must learn that culture and tradition -- not skin color -- is what makes people act or talk a certain way.
Also, encourage your children to ask questions. Teach them how to have a healthy dialogue about people from different backgrounds. The more they understand the road someone else has walked, the less likely our kids will act judgmentally toward them.
Most important of all, model through your words and actions how to treat people with love and respect, no matter how dark or light the color of their skin may be. Some say that children are "color-blind," but I don't believe that's true. Children easily notice differences, whether it's between boys and girls, or between hairstyles, clothing or the color of skin. But they don't generally interpret those differences as negative unless they're taught to do so. So, conversely, we can and should teach our kids that differences can be positive.
One final thought: Don't be too quick to punish your child that first time you're shocked to hear inappropriate remarks. We don't want to overreact. We just want to turn the problem in the right direction by teaching them the appropriate way to engage the issue of race.
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Q: My kids keep talking about the video game Fortnite. It sounds like the "big thing" these days. What do I need to know about it as a parent?
Adam Holz, "Plugged In": Fortnite is indeed a big thing. Since 2017, the free Battle Royale version of this online shooter has been "the" game for many tweens and teens, especially boys. The premise is simple: Players drop onto an island to blast it out against 100 other combatants. It's a third-person shooter that adds a big dose of "Hunger Games"-style warfare -- a fast-paced, last-man-standing competition. Rounds take about 20 minutes as players scramble to locate ammunition, weapons and upgrades to give them the edge.
On the positive side, Fortnite is more cartoony than graphic. Unlike many popular M-rated shooters, there's no blood and gore in this T-rated title. The game also promotes teamwork as friends playing together master tactical strategies.
That said, however, Fortnite is still a shooter. And though it avoids explicit gore, research has repeatedly shown that shooters may correlate with increased aggression, reduced empathy and emotional desensitization in young players.
Another concern is the game's compulsive quality. For some young players, Fortnite can morph into an addictive habit that leads to hours of gameplay if parents don't set firm limits. Additionally, Fortnite's designers at Epic Games have cleverly broken online play into regular "seasons," with each new season offering different variations on the core game, including new unlockable "skins" (which alter players' onscreen appearances) and humorous victory dances (which fans love and imitate). And though the Battle Royale version is technically free, in-game upgrade purchases are available.
Fortnite isn't the worst of the worst in this bullet-blasting genre. But this shooter's format, style and addictive design definitely make it a game that families should approach with caution, conversation and agreed-upon boundaries.