A nine-year-old girl was sent to rehab by her parents after she became so addicted to video game Fortnite, she wet herself so she wouldn’t have to stop playing.
The primary school child, who would play the game for up to 10 hours a day, once even lashed out at her father when he tried to confiscate her Xbox console.
‘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,’ the girl’s mother told the Sunday People.
‘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 parents bought their daughter an Xbox in January and shortly after she downloaded Fornite – which is free to download but players pay for in-game purchases to boost their performances.
But it was mid-March when they began to suspect something was wrong after teachers at their daughter’s school voiced their concerns over her sleeping in lessons and her ailing grades.
Her mother 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.’
After noticing payments totalling £50 per month coming off their credit card to Microsoft, the couple realised the depth of their daughter’s addiction.
Her 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 girl’s parents contacted an addictions counsellor who is treating her with intensive therapy to combat her addiction – thankfully she is slowly getting back on track.
Over 40 million people have downloaded the game since it launched last July.
Culture Secretary Matt Hancock has warned that addictive online shooter games like Fortnite can have a damaging impact on children.
And experts fear many children are at risk of developing mental health problems as a result of over-exposure to violent and addictive video games.
The child’s mother added: ‘I urge every parent out there to know what this game can do, how it sucks young children in and could ruin lives.’
How to keep your child safe while playing Fortnite
Andy Robertson, gaming expert of the online safety group Internet Matters, offers five tips for parents to keep their child safe while playing Fortnite.
1. Make sure it’s age appropriate
In the UK the Video Standards council rate Fortnite as PEGI 12 for frequent scenes of mild violence. You know your child better than a rating so use it as a guide to help you make an informed decision.
2. Monitor their online activity
Make sure you check the game’s online communication settings so you are satisfied that your child is not talking to strangers.
3. Manage in-app purchases
Set up passwords on any credit/debit cards associated with the system so you know your child is spending a fortune on the many in-app purchases.
4. Set time limits
Agree with your child on how long you think is appropriate to play the game once you understand how the game works.
5. Join in
Families will get the most out of the game when parents join in and turn it from something played in bedrooms to a game for the family room that everyone enjoys.