A girl aged nine is in rehab after becoming addicted to a video game that is gripping the nation’s kids. Her horrified parents have revealed their daughter is in intensive therapy after getting hooked on the Fortnite game. Over 40 million have downloaded the so-called survival shooter game since it was launched last July, sparking record numbers of digital addiction. Experts fear she is one of many children at risk of developing mental health problems as a result of over-exposure to the fight-to-the-death scenarios.
The obsessed primary school pupil…
- Secretly got up in the night and played until dawn
- Neglected to go to the toilet because she could not bear to leave the screen
- Hit her father in the face when he tried to confiscate her Xbox gaming console
- Dozed off in class because of her night-time addiction
The girl’s mum told the Sunday People: “We had no idea, when we let her play the game, of the addictive nature or the impact it could have on her mental health.
“She is in therapy for the addiction after she became withdrawn, agitated and disturbed from playing up to ten hours a day – sometimes playing until dawn, wetting herself so she didn’t have to leave the screen.
“This is a serious issue which is destroying our little girl’s life and someone needs to step in to ban it before it becomes an epidemic.” Fortnite has been endorsed by a multitude of top sport and music stars. The game’s most popular format is the Battle Royale in which 100 players fight each other until one is left standing.
Although the game is free to download, its developers make money from hooked users who pay for in-game purchases to boost their performances. Mum Carol, 36, said they bought their daughter an Xbox in January and shortly after she downloaded Fortnite. She and her husband Richard, who we are not picturing to protect the identity of their daughter, say it was not until mid-March they noticed worrying signs. Carol said: “We got called in by her head teacher asking if everything was OK. She had fallen asleep twice in lessons and her grades were slipping. “When we asked our daughter what the problem was, she became unusually argumentative and aggressive, which we just put down to her hormones.” But soon the sports-mad girl started saying she too tired to go to gym or ballet classes, as well as missing the family visits to church on Sunday mornings.
Noticing small but regular payments on their credit card to Microsoft, adding up to over £50 a month, they asked if she knew anything about this. The mum said: “Our daughter told us it could be some extras she’d paid for on Fortnite.
“Of course we were furious and confiscated her Xbox. But then she lashed out and hit my husband in the face.” Despite limiting their daughter’s time on the game to one hour on school nights and two on weekends, they were still suspicious. Carol said: “My husband saw her light on in the night and found her sitting on a urine-soaked cushion playing the game. “I found her backside was red-raw. She was so hooked to the game she wouldn’t even go to the toilet.”
The next morning they sat her down and asked her to tell the truth. The mum said: “Crying, she told us that every night for the past two months she had waited until we were asleep and then got up to play, sometimes until 5am. “We worked out that she could have been playing for up to ten hours a day, and we’d had no idea.” The parents contacted addictions counsellor Steve Pope, who agreed to see the girl for psychotherapy.
Steve told the Sunday People: “Over the last two months I’ve been contacted by dozens of parents with children as young as eight showing signs of addiction to Fortnite. “I’ve been working in this field for three decades and never seen anything like it, how widespread and potentially damaging this is. “I know bright kids who will fail their exams this summer because of Fortnite, kids who are stealing from their parents and friends to pay for the extras, kids who urinate in bottles because they can’t bear to leave the game.”
Experts claim it is the high-profile celebrity endorsements in recent weeks that have fuelled exposure. Steve added: “You see Premier League footballers celebrating goals with Fortnite dances and it’s the biggest possible advert for kids. “It’s the perfect gateway into addiction and gambling.”
Professional gamers are making up to £500,000 a month from live-streaming their Fortnite games for addicted children to watch. The nine-year-old girl in our report is slowly getting back on track with her sports and schooling. But her mum said: “I urge every parent out there to know what this game can do, how it sucks young children in and could ruin lives.” Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that addictive online shooter games such as Fortnite have a damaging impact on children.