Fortnite is a video game that has an online option. In the game, 100 players fight their characters to the death until one triumphs. While the violence in the game turns off some parents and teens, others don’t mind it because it is cartoonish in nature and not realistic. The problem is that many children and teenagers are becoming addicted to the game and will spend hours and hours competing in this “Battle Royale” playing mode. Is it possible that your teen is addicted? If so, how can you tell, and what can you do about it? Read on to find out.
What Makes Fortnite and Similar Video Games So Addictive
You might know how addiction works when it comes to substances like drugs and alcohol. The substances prompt the brain to release endorphins, which are “feel good hormones,” and the individual begins to crave those endorphins. They often develop a tolerance for the substance, needing more and more each time to get the same endorphin high that they did a month or a year ago.
Behavioral addictions, which include video game addiction, work the same way. The thrill of being one of a handful of people left out of 100 causes the brain to release endorphins. Teens also often feel excitement and an adrenaline rush. They might notice that their hands are sweating, their heart is racing, and their breathing has quickened. These effects are stimulating and novel, so an addiction to the adrenaline and endorphins begins. This effect is not limited only to Fortnite; other video games, as well as behaviors like shopping, gambling, and sex can all be similarly addictive.
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Difference Between a Hobby and a Video Game Addiction
Teens have a wide variety of passions, and video gaming is a common one. When can a parent know whether a teen’s love of a video game goes beyond a hobby or a passion and crosses the line into an addiction? The truth is, it is difficult to come up with a specific definition. It is always possible to think that addictive behavior is not very serious or to conclude that playing a lot of video games equals an addiction, but neither of these is true.
If the gaming is negatively impacting parts of your teen’s life and he or she has tried without success to cut down or quit playing, chances are good that there is an addiction at play. A teen who simply enjoys gaming will be able to switch to other activities, will still be getting the sleep and nutrition that they need, and will still be interacting with others who do not share that passion. A teen might want to play more than their parent wants them to, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are addicted.
Minimizing Video Game Dependency
While addiction is a brain issue and not a parenting issue, there are some things that parents can do to minimize the chances that their teen will become too dependent on Fortnite and other video games.
First, know what your teen is doing online. When a personal computer or gaming system is kept in the teen’s bedroom, it’s very easy for parents not to know what they’re actually doing nor how much time they are spending on the device. Consider keeping gaming equipment in the public living areas of your home rather than in your teen’s bedroom. This is a good tip to keep young people safe from various online-based threats in addition to the danger of video game addiction.
Don’t be afraid to set reasonable boundaries. Many teens would love to have unfettered access to video games, but most parents don’t support that behavior. Even older teens can benefit from limits, and it is your job to place them. Decide what is reasonable in your home and enforce those rules. You might consider shutting off the wifi after a certain point in the evening to prevent late-night playing into the wee hours.
Signs That a Teen Is Addicted to a Video Game
There are both behavioral and physical signs that an individual might be addicted to video games such as Fortnite.
Physical signs could include headaches, neck or back pain, eyestrain, wrist pain, and weight gain. These signs come from spending too much time sitting in one place staring at a screen. The weight gain could be due to not moving around much and eating convenience foods rather than foods that require more preparation (which are usually healthier).
Behavioral signs include not wanting to leave the house or take part in activities that are not related to the game, talking about the game constantly, lying about how much time he or she is spending playing the game, and getting angry when gameplay is curtailed or limited. Your teen might also neglect his or her hygiene, preferring to spend time on the game rather than showering, putting on clean clothes, and caring for their hair and teeth.
If left unchecked this addiction can lead to depression and/or anxiety. Watch for the signs of these mental health issues, as well. In some cases, depression or anxiety is present first and it leads to gaming addiction. No matter which came first, both issues will need to be addressed and treated.
Getting Help for a Game-Addicted Adolescent
If you are concerned that your teen might have an addiction to Fortnite or any other video game, there is help available. His or her primary care doctor can perform a screening to find out whether addiction might be an issue. From there, a therapist or psychiatrist can be consulted. Treatment might include cognitive behavioral therapy, an incentive-based therapy, or even inpatient residential care. In some cases, medication can help, particularly if depression or anxiety are contributing factors.
Your teen can get past a Fortnite addiction. Contact his or her doctor to get the process started so he or she can go on to enjoy a life free from addiction.