It was December 2017 when my son, Nathan, started playing Fortnite. I was fed up of the sitting room being hogged by video games on the Xbox that for his Christmas I redecorated his bedroom and moved the console into his room. I was recovering from being in hospital and having the sofa and TV to myself was a bit of a luxury. But I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life entrusting my son with an Xbox in his room.
After Christmas was when I saw the first changes in him. He was away staying with family and would phone me every night saying he was home sick and needed to come home. The stories of why were vague but had connotations of abuse happening and neglect. When questioned he would shut down and go into his shell.
Then came January and the start of the new term, Nathan was ill. He could not stay awake, his eyes were sunken and dark, a red mottled rash appeared on his legs, he could sleep for 20 hour periods and had no short term memory recall. We had three trips to the hospital with him, once via ambulance. All tests came back fine but there was talk of chronic illnesses like mine manifesting early due to stress, and even talks of referal to Alder Hay Children’s Hospital.
It was one night when I got up to go to the bathroom I heard it. The quiet sounds of an Xbox controller clicking. The TV volume turned down so I would not hear. Nathan had been gaming all night long, for hours at a time and falling asleep playing the game so when I checked on him it looked like a seizure. He was waiting for me to go to bed and going back on Fortnite, after pretending to be asleep. Then came the bank charges. Micro transactions of £7.99 for VBucks, transactions which totalled over £400.
My son, a boy once full of confidence and charm was now a shell of his former self, unable to leave the house, argumentative, moody, he lost all pride in his appearance and did not care about his friends and family. School was now suffering and he had missed six weeks of school with not knowing what was wrong. I decided to home school him to help with his confidence and get him back on track.
The game was removed from the Xbox. We talked about gaming addiction, about the health dangers and watched interviews of parents saying how this free to play game changes their child. I allowed Nathan to go back on the Xbox at restricted times and kept to a timetable of home education. Slowly my boy started coming back.
Then came peer pressure. “But everyone else it playing it, why not me?” I was begged, not only by Nathan but by his friends too. After three months I gave in and allowed him to play again with strict guidelines. The changes happened overnight. He became agitated, aggressive, he questioned what I did and the things I asked him to do. Again, the game was removed. Stricter restrictions were placed on the Xbox and his devices to get online as if he was not playing the game, he was watching streamers or YouTubers play to get his fix. Yet again, my boy started coming back to me. Lost between the pixelated graphics.
In the last week I took a relapse and have not been well. Because I was ill I slackened the restrictions on the Xbox because Nathan told me he was enjoying watching a new anime series. I was happy for him to watch, but this evening, after sending him to bed, something didn’t quite feel right. I remotely accessed the Xbox console via my phone at 12.20am, over two hours since I had sent Nathan to bed and low and behold, he was playing Fortnite thinking I was asleep.
Flinging myself out of bed I heard the ping of the Xbox turning off as he thought I was going to the bathroom. Instead I lost my temper and have removed the Xbox completely. He cried, trying to claim I was taking away his friends and his life. My eleven year old son tried to emotionally manipulate me into giving him the Xbox. He likened it to cutting off his hair as he loved both the Xbox and having long hair.
I have now sent him to bed with no access to any devices or the internet. I got doors slammed on me for that – who unleashed the teenager 12 months too early? I am disappointed, in both Nathan and myself. The process of rehabilitation to normal life has to start again.
This game, though bright and colourful is highly addictive. I am not adverse to computer games in the slightest, in fact my first business was running computer game events that lasted 48 hours, so I know the addiction. But Fortnite takes the issue of gaming addiction to a whole new level. The media reports that universities in the states are giving out collage sponsorships based on your Fortnite ability, and even a live gamer leauge with prize money of $10million. Then there are the children being forced into rehab centres and needing medical care because of the addiction to this game. That could quite easily be Nathan. Newspapers and the media are quick to judge the parenting, putting that at fault above the addictive nature of the game. The games, filled with adrenaline release brain chemicals which make the gaming time seem euphoric. The players want to remain in that bubble, with real life feeling slow and sluggish. That is not down to parenting, that is down to the game creators who are making millions of the 40 million strong player audience across the globe. The game is discussed in mainline media with celebrities seen doing the game taunts and dances. They have got a full generation brainwashed due to one, simple, free to play game. As a parent who has seen how damning this game is first hand, this needs to stop.
It’s actually horrifying what lengths children will go to feeling they need to play. This is where hard-core addictions in adulthood stem from and it should be stopped and addressed sooner rather than later.
Have you had issues with this game? Leave your comments below, I would love to hear from you.
Love, hugs and flossing