With Season 4 released today, are your teenagers obsessed with Fortnite?

The Battle Royale-style gaming sensation is taking over the world.
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Got a teenager? Then chances are you'll have heard them make some reference to "Fortnite" in the past year.

The online multiplayer is sweeping the nation, and its popularity has exploded in part thanks to celebrity players like Drake, whose games have been viewed by millions of people on YouTube and live-streaming site Twitch. 

Minnesota Timberwolves Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins are also regular players (you can see KAT play below).

New versions of the free-to-download game, which is available on consoles including the PlayStation and Xbox as well as Mac devices, are released periodically, with "Season 4" going live on Tuesday, May 1.

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It's particularly popular among teenagers, which has prompted concern among parents and teachers who note that some are obsessed with the addictive game.

If you're looking to learn more about it, here's your primer.

What is Fortnite?

The video game created by Epic Games is a survival shooting game that's part Minecraft, part Hunger Games.

It started out as a co-operative game in which players scavenge weapons and build defensive structures out of materials they find in the game world, before teaming up to defend themselves from a zombie apocalypse.

However, users began to gravitate towards the multiplayer "Battle Royale" style shoot-em-up in which 100 players – some of whom are in small teams – fight to the death on a rapidly shrinking island.

The popularity of this part of the game prompted its own spinoff, "Fortnite: Battle Royale," this past September, which as of this week is now in its 4th season.

What are the concerns?

Fortnite's cartoonish and gore-free gamplay makes it markedly different from other shoot-em-ups, and as such its recommended minimum age – 13 and up – is lower than others. 

The tactical, building and teamwork elements of the game have drawn praise for fostering creativity and camaraderie among friends.

But the game has also raised concerns about it being too addictive, not least because it's so damn difficult to win a Battle Royale that it creates an obsessive desire among players to keep going.

USA Today reports it has also caused problems in schools, to the point that some teenagers are playing it on their phones during class – despite warnings within Fortnite not to do that.

While free to play, the game also features in-app purchases that give players the chance to upgrade their clothing and equipment via the purchase of V-Bucks, which cost $9.99 for 1,000.

This has led to some parents being stiffed with huge, unwelcome bills when their kids make purchases without them knowing, with the New York Times reporting the game generated $223 million in March.

There have also been concerns raised about young Battle Royale players' involvement in a group chat with 99 other gamers, exposing them to potentially harmful language and abuse from strangers.

Precautions parents can take

If your kids are playing via a console and you're concerned about how much time they're spending on it, the New York Times advises setting limits on how much they can play – whether through rules enforced at home or by using parental control settings on consoles.

Rather than setting themselves against the game, parents should instead allow their children to play, but only after their family responsibilities have been met, the newspaper advises.

Consumer Reports notes that parents should look for signs of excessive screen time in their child's behavior, including slipping grades, missing sleep and spending less time socializing with friends (in person that is).

A guide to limiting screen time from Consumer Reports can be found here.

With regards to in-app purchases, Pocket Lint encourages parents to make sure the credit card linked to their console or phone is password protected to prevent any nasty surprises.

And if you're worried about your children being exposed to worrying conversations with other players, Fortnite allows players to chat in groups of friends, while muting the outbursts from all other players involved in the game.

Otherwise, have them play with the sound on in the family room so you can hear their conversations, or disable voice-chat altogether.

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