The UAE's largest education group has warned that the popular video game Fortnite exposes children to violence, inappropriate language and could put them at risk of being groomed online by strangers.
Nadine de Mascarel, head of wellbeing at Gems Education, wrote in a newsletter to parents last week: "It has come to our attention that a significant amount of our students are passionate about a game called Fortnite".
"The game is addictive. The game pushes players to make additional in-game purchases to acquire items. The multiplayer function exposes players to inappropriate language from strangers in voice or on-screen text chat. The online chats put children at risk of being groomed by strangers."
Fortnite Battle Royale is an online multiplayer survival game where players must compete to be the last one standing by killing every player in the game. During the game, players collect weapons, build safe structures, and try to avoid the storm that damages all players outside of a safe zone.
It has grown to have 125 million players since the cross-platform game was released in mid-July last year. It made more than $100 million (Dh367m) on its recently iOS platform release in just 90 days.
GEMS Jumeirah Primary School has gone as far as to block the game on their premises.
Parents have been advised to turn off the voice chat option in the game, limit the time their child spends playing this game and have an open discussion on the game with the child.
Ms de Mascarel believes it would be helpful for parents to remind children that they need to tell them if they see or hear something inappropriate. Establishing rules with regards to online activity and screen time is helpful.
Last week, The National reported on Fortnite's increasing popularity, with the mother of 11-year-old Abu Dhabi resident Amine Riyad saying that he acts like a drug addict whenever his access to the game is taken away.
“He acts like someone going through withdrawal symptoms. He will follow me around the house complaining and asking for an explanation. I always tell him ‘I don’t want to lose you’ and I try to show him videos of people who died from playing video games. This works for a day or two but then he goes back to Fortnite like nothing ever happened,” she said.
This week, the World Health Organisation listed “gaming disorder” as a mental health condition for the first time in its draft 11th International Classification of Diseases.