"Fortnite" Addiction Is Becoming More Prominent For Kids, Teens

By Kelly Burch 12/07/18

One expert says games like Fortnite are similar to heroin "once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.” 

teen with fortnite addiction playing the game before rehab

Whether or not tech addiction exists is still up for debate, but parents around the country are saying that their kids and teens are no doubt addicted to the video game Fortnite, prompting some parents to seek professional help for their children. 

“This game is like heroin,” Lorrine Marer, a British behavioral specialist who works with kids with game addiction, told Bloomberg. “Once you are hooked, it’s hard to get unhooked.” 

One NPR listener from Florida called in saying that he understands how people get hooked on the games. The listener, who is in his 30s, is nationally-ranked in a similar video game, and said that the adrenaline hit he gets from playing could easily be addictive to kids and adults. 

"A lot of these games — I mean, my worry is they get kids addicted through chemical reactions,” he said. “If you go through a 40-minute game with 100 people, and you're one of the last five people, your heart is beating so fast, when you actually win, they crave that rush. And that's what they're going back for.

Video games are part of life for many kids today, so having healthy boundaries is important, said Sarah Domoff, a clinical child psychologist and psychology professor at Central Michigan University who directs the Family Health Lab, a training clinic that promotes healthy media use in adolescents.

"For a lot of these different mediums, we cannot completely avoid them,” Domoff said. “What's really imperative is to set limits early on, help children learn how to regulate their use, but then really be involved, set guidelines around use. If problems appear to arise, prevent future issues by checking to see, is my child only playing video games to the exclusion of other activities?”

Nir Eyal, an author and tech blogger who has written about producing habit-forming tech products, said that parents need to schedule time for games and introduce healthy limits for their children. 

"I think a big mistake that parents make is having technology in kids' rooms. They don't need to have the technology in the room. Keep it outside in a more family-focused place,” Eyal said. “And then prevent distraction with the technology. Your iPhone today comes with a functionality called 'Screen Time' where you can set limits around how long kids have access to certain apps, so then it's not you telling them to get off the device, it's the phone.”

If parents suspect their child is developing an unhealthy habit around tech, Eyal said that parents need to help them figure out why that’s happening. 

"For some folks, there are underlying issues: a lack of autonomy, confidence, connectedness, and for those type of things we need to dig deeper to figure out what we're really trying to escape with these devices,” Eyal said. 

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix
Kelly Burch Contrib.jpg

Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.