Fortnite addiction lands UAE teenager in rehab

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Since she was placed under a rehab programme, her condition has improved, the police said.

Parents of a 15-year-old girl – who loved playing with knives and claimed to “enjoy blood” – thought their daughter was just like any other kid addicted to video games. But when she started trying ‘suicidal stunts’ such as jumping from their roof, they sought medical help.

She was first brought to the Rashid Hospital, and when the medical staff found it difficult to handle her aggressive behaviour, they called in the Dubai Police.

Sgt Aysha Hassan, an official at the police’s victim care department, said that when they spoke to the girl, they noticed that she appeared obsessed about her victories on the video game Fortnite and seemed to be living its characters’ violent actions in real life.

The authorities referred her to Al Jalila Children’s Speciality Hospital, where she is currently admitted. She has been placed under a rehabilitiation programme for the past six months.

The girl had become too violent, so much so that when she learnt that she would be placed under rehab, she said she would “blow up their home” when she comes back.

Her parents told the police that the violent behaviour began when she got addicted to the Fortnite game that she played on a PlayStation. Developed by a US-based development company, Fortnite has been described as a “bright, brash multiplayer shooting” game, considered to be among the most popular video games today.

The signs of “severe aggression” didn’t come pouring in all at once, the parents told the police.

First, there were seemingly harmless signs like ‘cutting her hair to look like a boy’. Then she started biting her classmates in school and posting Instagram photos of her holding knives.

It even came to a point when she “slashed her mother and father” with a knife, saying that she “enjoyed blood”, her parents told the police. And back then, they thought it was all a joke that was part of her being a teenager.

Since she was placed under a rehab programme, her condition has improved, the police said. But she will have to stay at the hospital and continue the treatment until she fully recovers.

As part of the programme, the teenager got to try other hobbies and activities and learnt about the negative impact of violent games.

She is also undergoing some psychological counselling, and her condition is closely monitored by the Dubai Police’s victim care department.

Police warning

Lt-Col Rashid Al Falasi, director of the crime monitoring department of the Dubai Police, warned that certain video games do have an adverse effect on the youth.

The young players – who are yet to fully understand the difference between reality and the virtual world – are likely to copy what they see on their screens. Hence, it is important for parents to supervise their children and be aware of the games they play, Al Falasi said.

Khaleej Times recently reported that parents in the UAE have started calling for a ban on PUBG, an online game that has already been blocked in certain cities across the world. In the past, the UAE has taken a strong stance when it comes to protecting youth against violent and dangerous games. Authorities banned online games Roblox, Mariam, Blue Whale and many others last year.

Now, the Telecommunications and Regulatory Authority (TRA) is encouraging parents to step forward and report games that they feel are dangerous for the youth.

With this new case of a violent teenager, the Dubai Police are reaching out to families whose children are believed to be suffering from a game addiction. They are also in the process of finding solutions to address the issue.

Sgt Hassan also said schools also have a role to play in monitoring children’s behaviour.


Amira Agarib

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