• 9 Investigates: Rise in health issues seen among young 'Fortnite' players

    By: John Paul

    Updated:

    The "Fortnite" craze is still going strong, with 200 million registered users still playing the video game.

    But doctors say
    they’ve seen young players with health problems typically only seen in adults. Doctors said the "Fortnite" video gaming craze is leading to more child cases of hypertension, carpal tunnel syndrome and other serious issues usually seen in adults.

    [ALSO READ: Parents hire coaches to help kids improve Fortnite video game skills]

    The free-to-play online game is one of the most popular in modern history.

    Many kids find themselves playing for hours on end and day after day

    Eight-year-old Aiden Molina is obsessed with "Fortnite" playing the game for hours at a time.

    "When I think about 'Fortnite,' it's like my life because when I play a lot, I get a lot of eliminations," Aiden said.

    "My son plays 'Fortnite' pretty much all the time, every day," his mother, Christen St. Pierre, said.

    St. Pierre said her son’s gaming habits are wreaking havoc on their family.

    "I figured 'Fortnite,' ‘Oh, it's like any other game,’ but no, it's just like changing their behavior, his attitude -- the defiance," St. Pierre said.

    The game is constantly updating with new features. Each game lasts 20 minutes maximum, so players loop in, again and again, making it easy to play for long stretches of time.

    The website for "Fortnite’s" creator, Epic Games, has a forum discussing young players who deal with hypertension from playing.

    Pediatrician Lynne Karlson said she's seeing more patients with issues related to video games, particularly "Fortnite."

    "It’s a big disability in their lives because for one, it interferes with their sleep,” Karlson said. “Often they’re playing late into the night or they get up early in the morning, and they’re not getting enough sleep."

    The problem is widespread.

    Local group and families offer workshops to teach parents about "Fortnite" and how to prevent addiction.

    "I have had kids who are angry, and I’m sure their blood pressure increased for at least that time," Dr. Kate Roberts, a psychologist, said.

    Roberts has also seen a surge in children being treated for a "Fortnite" addiction.

    She said the game can change a child's personality and behavior if they're allowed to play for unlimited amounts of time.

    "What happens is they start to crave it,” Roberts said. “If they play it for more than a couple hours, they get into this addictive mode. The dopamine in their brain starts to react to it and then when they come off of it, they have a crash from the decrease in dopamine. Basically, that makes them angry, irritable, withdrawn."

    St. Pierre has seen that firsthand in her son.

    "He just really needs to get off of it, because his behavior, his attention span, so on and so forth, have just gone by the wayside and that’s it," she said.

    Karlson recommends no more than two hours of "Fortnite" or any other game per day.

    You can use parental controls on most devices to regulate your child's playtime as well as in-app purchases.

    If your child shows signs of isolation or depression, seek professional help.

    [LINK: Depression resources]

     

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