Fortnite and other addictive games affect children’s brains in the same way as drugs and alcohol, study finds
- Fortnite can affect children’s brains in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse
- Children at a higher risk because their brains are flexible, US research found
- Ministers may be forced to prevent young pupils flouting age restrictions
Fortnite and other addictive video games can affect children’s brains in the same way as alcoholism or drug abuse, scientists have found.
The researchers have discovered that the ‘reward’ system of young heavy players have the same changes in structure and function as those hooked on substances.
Children are at a higher risk because their brains are flexible, the research by California State University showed.
The researchers have discovered that the ‘reward’ system of young heavy players have the same changes in structure and function as those hooked on substances
Their series of studies revealed that the amygdala-striatal system – the impulsive section of the brain – was smaller and more sensitive in addicted players users, in order to process the stimuli of games faster.
The findings, reported in the Daily Telegraph, come after primary schools warned parents on Monday that their children’s education is being damaged by Fortnite.
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Ministers may even be forced to take urgent steps to prevent young pupils flouting age restrictions on the controversial game.
Teachers say pupils younger than Fortnite’s supposed 12 age limit are becoming obsessed with the game, affecting their concentration in school.
Meanwhile, parents are reporting how Fortnite turns normally placid children into thugs obsessed with guns and killing.
One nine-year-old primary school pupil was reported to have become so immersed in the game’s online world that she would wet herself, rather than take a break to go to the toilet. The latest studies, led by Professor Ofir Turel of California State University, said the impact on children’s brains is marked.
Children are at a higher risk because their brains are flexible, the research by California State University showed
He said: ‘Say someone sees a video game or cellphone, this reward system in the brain lights up.
‘It’s a very strong activation compared to other people. It is associated with structural change in that this brain area is smaller in people who are excessive users.
‘The smaller system can process associations much faster. But like a car, you need to put more gas into it to generate more power.’ His research also discovered a link between heavy video game players aged between 13 and 15 and an increased likelihood of misusing at least one of 15 substances – such as amphetamines and cocaine.
He said: ‘There’s a much bigger risk factor for [addicted] children because their brains are flexible. Some parts of the brain develop until they are 17, others are not fully developed until they are 25.
‘The development of the reward or impulse system is much faster compared to the development of the self-control system.
‘It means that if you take someone who is 13 years old, they will have a mature reward system but self-control system is not as well developed. So they are much more pre-disposed for impulsive and risky behaviours. With children there is room for regulation. They need our protection. Their brains are not as efficient as ours.’
In January, the World Health Organisation officially classified ‘gaming disorder’ as a mental health condition.
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