The link between young gaming and gambling is much stronger than you may think at first. Gambling addictions aren’t some selfish behaviors reserved for washed-up has-beens that live in online gambling rooms. Gambling can take hold of people as young as ten throughout adulthood. Anyone with financial risk and reward platforms can subject themselves to forming a gambling addiction.
Understanding Children’s Gaming and Gambling Addiction
Developing Brains and Risky Behavior
Brain development is still in the process until our early twenties. That means decision-making skills in adolescents, the most significant online gaming population, are immature. Teenagers and children are much more likely to take risks and make unwise decisions. Enter the online game and loot boxes.
Some games aimed at children as young as three and many games for older children contain loot boxes. A child must pay a certain amount of money to open the loot box with an unknown object they can use in the game.
With underdeveloped decision-making ability and a strong desire for immediate reward, children often will pay to unlock these boxes if they can, experiencing their first taste of the link between financial risk and gain in chance, better known as gambling. Loot boxes and similar incentives normalize children and adolescents to gambling so that the transition to online gambling is more natural and seamless.
Other game styles that promote similar behavior to gambling are those that involve earning coins. Even the most well-intentioned, educational games can apply the process of earning coins to purchase rewards. While this isn’t precisely gambling, the behavior is similar.
Online Gaming at Young Ages
The younger children start online gaming, the more accustomed they become to these types of internal rewards. They may become desensitized to the concept of money and not yet understand its real value if they’re constantly involved in a world of fake incentives using fake coin systems purchased by clicking a button on a tablet or smartphone.
For adolescents, gambling advertisement pop-ups aren’t uncommon to see while they’re online gaming. Since these games are popular with adults, it’s unclear exactly which audience the gambling industry is targeting.
How to Manage Your Child’s Gambling Addiction
As young children grow, they may continue to participate in online games that are increasingly more complex. Gaming may become a big part of their social constructs and daily lives. Online gambling may be one more avenue for them to explore at a younger age, especially if they have easy access to funds. As a parent, there are specific steps you can take to ensure your child is gaming safely and avoiding pseudo-gambling behavior.
Step 1: Review and Approve Games for Young Children
It’s easier to wave your hand and say yes when your young child wants to download a new game on their tablet or your phone. That game may be full of loot boxes or other monetary-based incentives. Take a few extra minutes to understand the game and read trustworthy reviews before allowing your child to play.
Step 2: Don’t Link Your Credit Card to their Account
If your child is playing on their own tablet account, do not link any payment form to their device. This step will avoid nightmarish charges for virtual items they purchase in the game without your knowledge. Understanding that real money is attached to these items is complex for a child to understand, especially when no cash ever passes anyone’s hands physically.
Step 3: Apply Parental Controls
Depending on your device’s operating system, you’ll have access to robust parental controls that allow you to restrict downloading at all, downloading certain types of apps, in-game purchases, and more. For example, Amazon Kids gives parents an easy-to-manage dashboard to control their child’s device usage. This step is an effective way to keep tabs on your child’s activity and prevent them from unwittingly spending your money.
Step 4: Talk to Your Children About Money Matters and Online Gambling in All Forms
The more you discuss topics like these with your children, the more likely they are to become curious about how these games work and what’s at play behind the scenes. Regular discussions about all that’s good and bad about online gaming will keep the conversation and concern fresh in their minds, allowing them to make wise decisions as they mature.
Step 5: Addiction Therapy
If you believe your child or adolescent has become addicted to online gaming or online gambling, reach out for help. There is a myriad of in-person and online resources to assist families with addiction of all kinds.
Step 6: Use Gambling Blocker Software
Take a look at the many gambling blocking apps available to keep your kids protected from online gambling ads and games at any age. These programs will go a long way in keeping kids away from gambling until they are adults and better equipped to make wise decisions about monetary incentives in games and online gambling.