FEAR BE­HIND FUN

The People - - NEWS FEATURES -

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.

Cry­ing

“I found her back­side was re­draw. 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 IN­TER­NET Mat­ters am­bas­sador and psy­chol­o­gist Dr Linda Pa­padopou­los says: “Games can be­come quite ad­dic­tive for chil­dren be­cause they’re fun in the way that car­toons are fun.

“A lot of apps or games act on the brain in the same way that an itch that needs to be scratched.

“Game cre­ators en­cour­age users to spend as long as pos­si­ble on their 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 game by play­ing on the ba­sic psy­cho­log­i­cal prin­ci­ples of re­ward and pun­ish­ment. “This can be dan­ger­ous as chil­dren don’t have much con­trol over ma­nip­u­la­tion of their brain’s re­ward sys­tem. “Par­ents need to look out for changes in be­hav­iour and make sure their child has a good bal­ance with other so­cial and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties.” 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 livestream­ing 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.

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