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Conversation 2 May 2018

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Highly-addictive video games risk having a “damaging” impact on children’s lives, the Culture Secretary has warned after parents raised concerns about a hugely popular multi-player “survival shooter”.

Fortnite, a video game which pits 100 players against each other and is free to play on mobile phones and games consoles, has proved hugely popular with children and teenagers.

The game has been downloaded more than 40 million times since its launch in July 2017 and been endorsed by a raft of celebrities, including Premier League footballers and chart-topping US rappers.

One of the signature aspects of the game enables players to dance. Dele Alli, the Tottenham and England midfielder, celebrated scoring a goal at the weekend with a dance from the game, which saw him stand with his hands in the air and swivelling from side-to-side.

In the US the rapper Drake and a host of American football stars have also helped popularise the game with teenagers, often streaming themselves playing Fortnite online and attracting hundreds of thousands of viewers.

Dele Alli pays tribute to Fortnite in a goal celebration

However the popularity of the game as led to concerns that it is dominating children’s time.

Matt Hancock, the Culture Secretary, told The Daily Telegraph: “Too much screen time could have a damaging impact on our children’s lives.

“Whether it’s social media or video games, children should enjoy them safely and as part of a lifestyle that includes exercise and socialising in the real world.

“We’re looking at what more could be done in this area alongside game publishers, developers and other agencies to promote safety and support parents.”

Fortnite allows gamers to create structures from materials scavenged in the game world. The most popular format is Battle Royale, in which 100 players face off against each other initially armed with just a pickaxe, to see who is the last player standing.

Since it was released last summer, the game has been available on consoles including the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 as well as PCs and Macs. It is now also available on mobile phones.

However there are also concerns that children are using their parent’s credit cards to buy weapons and outfits for the game.

Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner, suggested that the game is “irresponsibly addictive” and urged parents to limit “screen time”.

She told The Telegraph: “Parents have a responsibility to make sure that children know they can turn off their devices, that they don’t need to be online all the time and that their screen-time is healthy, well-managed and productive.

“At the same time, games companies have a responsibility to ensure their products are not sucking in young children with addictive features that encourage them to spend all day on their devices, spending more and more money.

“There is a growing problem of irresponsibly addictive platforms and games aimed at children. Games should be creative and fun but not an addiction.

“I know many parents are really worried about the power some games and apps have over their children’s lives and the way they encourage them to keep buying new features.”

The National Crime Agency warned paedophiles could be hijacking the game after one mother from Liverpool claimed her 12-year-old son was offered £50 to perform a sex act.

Nigel Huddleston, a Tory MP and Parliamentary private secretary to Culture secretary Matt Hancock, told The Daily Telegraph: “Game developers must take their responsibilities seriously.  They must think carefully about who they are targeting and what messages their content sends.

“It appears that children under the age of 12 are playing this game and it concerns me that some parents claim this game is highly addictive and their children’s attitude changes when playing this game. There is a thin line between entertainment and addiction.

“I personally wouldn’t want my 12-year-old son to play this game.  I’m concerned that some highly addictive games consume huge amounts of young people’s lives when that time can be spent on more valuable real world activities or on more informative and certainly less aggressive screen time activities.”  Epic Games, the developer behind Fortnite, declined to comment.


Prue Leith: My brother died in agony because of ban on assisted dying laws


Prue Leith supports Motor Neurone Disease sufferer Noel Conway

Prue Leith has spoken of how her brother died in agony because doctors were afraid of hastening his death.

The restaurateur and presenter said her brother David “suffered months of agony and a horrific death from bone cancer” as she backed a man suffering from motor neurone disease who has brought an assisted dying case to the Court of Appeal.

She said: “David’s doctors would not give him enough morphine ‘for fear he’d become addicted’.

“The real reason, of course, was the fear of being prosecuted for unlawful killing if the extra morphine should hasten his death. We should not put patients or doctors in this untenable position.”

Her brother, who had worked for the RAF and for Leith’s company Good Food, died in 2012 at the age of 74.

Having moved to South Africa, he became ill during a visit to England to see his son and daughter.

He initially told relatives that he had wrenched his back moving a fridge but was persuaded to see a doctor and was diagnosed with bone cancer.

He became too ill to travel and was eventually forced to refuse antibiotics and allow the pneumonia brought on by his condition to kill him.

Prue Leith and her brother David as children

The Bake Off judge was speaking as retired university lecturer Noel Conway, 68, began a three-day case at the Court of Appeal.

Outlining his case to three senior judges on Tuesday, Mr Conway’s lawyers said the law as it stands interferes with his rights and that the court must decide whether that interference is “justified and proportionate”.

Nathalie Lieven QC said: “The question for this court is not a very generalised one of the morality or ethics of allowing doctors to assist patients to die.

“The question for this court is rather a focused one of whether for this very specific cohort, i.e., terminally ill people with less than six months to live, the ban is justifiable because of an impact on the weak and vulnerable.”

Terminally-ill Noel Conway with his wife Carol outside Telford Justice Centre

Mr Conway previously asked the High Court for a declaration that the Suicide Act 1961, which outlaws assisted suicide, is incompatible with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which relates to respect for private and family life, and Article 14, which protects from discrimination.

His case was rejected in October last year, and he is appealing to the higher court to overturn that ruling.

Mr Conway is too unwell to travel to London for the hearing but is watching proceedings over a video link from Telford Crown Court.

Sir Patrick Stewart also voiced his support for Mr Conway’s case, citing the experiences of a “dear friend” who died from cancer.

“She attempted to end her own life with an overdose of medication before finally resorting to suffocating herself with a plastic bag. How can we continue to support the status quo when it forces dying people to resort to such drastic measures?” he said.

David’s doctors would not give him enough morphine ‘for fear he’d become addicted’, she said.

Mr Conway’s case is supported by campaign group Dignity in Dying. Its chief executive Sarah Wootton said: “Terminally ill people like Noel should be shown compassion and respect but instead, our outdated laws force dying people into taking drastic measures in order to salvage some control over the end of their lives.”

However, on Tuesday morning disability campaign group The Distant Voices, which opposes the case, created a “giant graveyard” outside the Royal Courts of Justice to highlight the “danger” of changing the law.

Campaigner Nikki Kenward, who has Guillain-Barré syndrome, said: “Should Mr Conway win his case it will change my life forever. As a disabled person I am only too aware that some people see me as having ‘no quality of life.’”


I glanced at my boss’s screen – and saw they have discussed getting rid of me. What should I do?

We use the CEO’s office for private meetings as the rest of the office is open plan. He also never signs out of his email. I was meeting a client when I glanced at the screen and noticed the top email was notes on a meeting on my future in the business. I finished my meeting and read the notes. The gist was that I was wrong for the position but they were not certain what the position should be. Several of the options discussed were about making me redundant with one month’s notice; however the decision made was to set me clearer goals and have an honest conversation with me. I’ve since been issued with share options and no conversation has taken place.

I’m deeply confused but unsure of whether or not to bring it up. I’ve had a year in the role, although I’ve been with the company much longer, and exceeded all my key performance indicators. I’m concerned their discussion may have to do with me having recently disclosed that I was suffering from depression. I’m planning to jump ship as soon as possible, but am wondering how I should handle it in the meantime.

• When leaving a message on this page, please be sensitive to the fact that you are responding to a real person in the grip of a real-life dilemma, who wrote to Working It Out asking for help, and may well view your comments here.

How do I keep my energy up at work?

Energy is in a constant state of flux and you are either absorbing it or losing it, but you seemingly never hold on to it for too long. As is so often the case, the key is to know thyself. If you treat yourself like an ongoing experiment that you want to improve (I’m very much into bio-hacking), then you need to run tests. Keep a daily diary of your moods and the things that might affect them. I’ve been using the app Daylio. It takes five seconds to check your energy levels, and you can add notes. You then get data showing certain correlations between feeling “meh” or feeling “rad!”

Having a good morning routine sets you up for the day, so plan one that gets you beyond pumped for work. Think about where you absorb your energy from, physically and mentally. It might be a morning protein shake or from listening to the Jackson 5 at full blast on the way to work. You might need a reminder about why you do what you do. I thrive on competition, so I love checking out similar companies briefly or listening to a podcast.

Food is the main culprit of an uncontrollable energy rollercoaster. I attempt to eat three times a day at 7am, noon and 6ish, with no snacking in between. I eat fish and low carbs for lunch, as I find a heavy lunch makes me sleepy. The main energy slump at work tends to be 3pm (that’s why we Brits invented afternoon tea). So my latest technique is to schedule fun meetings from noon to 4pm. I do utility meetings in morning when neither boredom nor hunger will strike me down, and vibey ones in the late afternoon so the time flies by. If you can’t get out of the office, do “in the zone” work during this time. Have your fave playlists on standby to keep you going. Don’t use coffee as a stimulant: learn about your energy levels and start to use yourself.

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