The growth of the digital world has revolutionised our lives, from finding information by talking to Siri, to catching up with an old friend with your fingertips. But as smartphones and new technologies become more ingrained in our lives, it can also start to take over lives in the same drugs and alcohol can.
There is becoming an increasing problem with young children, not just from the increasing use and dependence of social media, but also the massive reach of the game, Fortnite, which has developed a 125 million following by the last count. This explosion in users has been helped by several celebrities playing the game, including footballers, Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Dele Alli, with Alli creating goal celebrations based on Fortnite dance moves and singer, Drake, partnering with YouTubers to play the game on online videos.
One of the first stories in the media around Fortnite addiction was about a nine-year old girl playing the game so much that her parents admitted her into rehab. This was after she wet herself, instead of going to the toilet, so she could continue to play the game and after she lashed out at her father, when he attempted to take her Xbox.
Other parents have also raised on concerns about their children after seeing this news, with Stacie from Utah commenting on Twitter, “That’s all he thinks about and wants to do. Addicted to it like a drug.”
It’s not just impacting children though, but also married couples. Divorce Online has reported that 200 out of 4,600 divorce petitions stated the game, Fortnite, as a contributing factor in the breakdown of their relationship. This is 5% of all the petitions made through Divorce Online in the UK!
Mark Keenan, from Divorce Online, said, “Addiction to drugs, alcohol and gambling have often been cited as reasons for relationship breakdowns but the dawn of the digital revolution has introduced new addictions.
These now include online pornography, online gaming, and social media, so it is no surprise to us that more and more people are having relationship problems because of our digital addictions.”
Such is the seriousness of the issue, WHO (World Health Organisation) has classified Gaming Disorder under the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11). If you or a loved one do spend a lot of time gaming, check whether they are displaying behaviour that is persistent or recurrent, manifested by:
- impaired control over gaming (e.g., onset, frequency, intensity, duration, termination, context);
- increasing priority given to gaming to the extent that gaming takes precedence over other life interests and daily activities;
- continuation or escalation of gaming despite the occurrence of negative consequences.
With addiction and disorders around gaming impacting the younger and the older generations globally, there could be someone you know that needs the support to change their behaviour. Look out for the following everyday signs: hours of free-time playing any game, neglecting family, friends and/or school or work, ignoring personal appearance and health, and lastly spending unnecessary money on gaming over more essential elements of life, such as rent or food.
Help ensure you or someone you know does not forget to live in the real world. Gaming is a form of entertainment and a hobby, like watching your favourite sport or spending the evening rock climbing with friends, not the way or point of life.
Over the coming months and years, we’ll see increasing amounts of research around the area, co-operation between governments and game-makers, and continued developments in guidelines, but in the meantime safeguard yourselves to the potential effects of the overuse of the digital world.
Fortnite was not the first (with World of Warcraft still going strong), and it will not be the last.