Online games like Fortnite are captivating middle schoolers across the globe. Linda Charmaraman, Ph.D., senior research scientist and director of the Youth, Media & Wellbeing Research Lab, wants to know how these violent, mature games influence the health and social development of youth.
As part of a larger study on adolescent social media use funded by Children and Screens: Institute of Digital Media and a grant from the National Institutes of Health, Charmaraman found that youth who play risky online games like Fortnite were more likely to show symptoms of addictive behaviors and computer overuse.
“One thing that we did find was that Fortnite users tend to play games much more often, they also check their social media really frequently, and they tend to lose some sleep because of Fortnite,” said Charmaraman in a video interview about the study. Additionally, Fortnite users in their study experienced blurry vision and hand pain.
There were some effects of Fortnite use that were not entirely negative, according to Charmaraman. Even though Fortnite players are online more than peers, “they are still staying connected to their friends. They still feel engaged. They’re not socially withdrawn. We also didn’t find any effects of depression or social anxiety that we might have found in other gamers,” Charmaraman said.
Charmaraman will present the findings at the American Psychological Association Convention in August 2019 in a poster co-authored by Amanda Richer, M.A., and Wellesley College students Sabina Unni ’19, Cynthia Serrano Najera ’21, and Stephanie Cobas ’21. Undergraduate students are central to the research process as this is a key focus of the NIH funding.