Re “For families, ‘Fortnite’ is a battleground” (Page A1, April 1): Imagine a new supplement sold in health food stores. Its advertising is aimed at adolescents and preadolescents. It produces a psychological, though not physical, addiction. Users lose interest in other activities, leading to a deterioration in school performance and a withdrawal from school sports, as well as from social and family interactions. Like rats with self-stimulation electrodes in their brain, they forget to eat. Many acknowledge that they can’t seem to stop using it, and most of the others insist that they just don’t want to stop.
There’s little question about what would happen. The Food and Drug Administration would clamp down and add it to its list of proscribed drugs. No one would argue except those using it.
Such addictions have been making it into the gaming world for years. But “Fortnite” is to previous games as cocaine is to caffeine. And the games will only get stronger. With all due respect to freedom of speech (although I have no idea what the speech here is), it’s time simply to ban this game, and others with equally addictive properties, from those who are under 18, just like we ban alcohol, nicotine, and slot machines.
I know, I know. People will insist that it’s impossible to police the Internet and stop children from playing. But I’m sure Silicon Valley could figure it out if they really wanted to. And having a legal ban, if nothing else, would empower parents to drag their kids away from the screen.
The writer is an associate professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School.