Is My Child Gambling Online?
Spotting the Signs
Red Flags for Parents to Watch Out For
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As the internet continues to evolve, becoming more important in our day-to-day lives, it's not surprising that new forms of gambling have emerged, some of which may appeal to your children.
While gambling addiction can affect anyone, with the introduction of loot boxes and loot crates, E-sports betting, social casinos and skins betting, young people now run a higher risk than ever of developing a gambling addiction.
As the line between gambling and gaming becomes increasingly blurred, it's important to stay in the know about the trends in the way younger people are gambling. Some of the most common ways are as follows:
Loot Boxes and Loot Crates
A loot box is a virtual item in video games that can be purchased with real or in-game currency. Inside loot boxes, you'll find a random assortment of virtual items, such as weapons, costumes, or other useful or cosmetic gear for the game.
The gambling aspect comes into play because players don't know exactly what they'll receive when they purchase a loot box - it's a game of chance. Some items are common and not very valuable, while others are rare and highly sought after. This randomness mirrors the nature of slot machines or lottery tickets in gambling, where players spend money without knowing the outcome, hoping for a valuable or beneficial result. It's the thrill of potentially high-value rewards that can make loot boxes addictive, just like traditional forms of gambling.
Skins betting is a form of online gambling that involves virtual goods, known as "skins" which are used to change the appearance of characters or weapons in video games. These skins can be won in the game, found in loot boxes, traded with other players, or purchased with real money.
With skins betting, the virtual items are used as a kind of currency to bet on the outcome of professional matches or in online casino-style games. The value of skins can vary greatly based on their rarity, demand, and the game they're associated with. While many young people may not be able to gamble due to being unable to provide a payment method, skins are far more accessible, with many of the websites used being untrustworthy and offering little to no safeguarding.
E-sports betting is a form of gambling that involves placing wagers on the outcomes of competitive video game matches or tournaments, which are known as E-sports. Just like traditional sports betting on games of football or basketball, people can bet on which team they think will win, who will score the most points, and so on.
The reason E-sports betting can be particularly attractive to young people is that many youths are passionate fans of video games. They often follow their favourite E-sports teams and players closely, just like fans of traditional sports.
Social Casino Games
Social casinos are online games that mimic traditional casino gambling, but are played on social platforms or mobile apps. These games include popular casino games like poker, slots, blackjack, and roulette.
While these games are usually free to play, they often encourage players to purchase in-game currency or other virtual goods to enhance their gameplay or increase their chances of winning. The in-game currency typically has no real-world value, meaning players can't cash out their winnings like in a real casino. You could argue that this "emulation" of gambling acts as a gateway to real gambling.
Are you concerned about your child having a gambling problem?
In the fast-paced world of gaming, it's crucial to recognise the difference between a harmless activity and a potential problem for your children.
Certain signs might point to gambling addiction. These can be behavioural, emotional, or financial. Below, we've listed out some common signs that might indicate your child has an issue with gambling.
Increased Time Spent Online
If your child is spending more time than usual playing games online, especially games known to contain elements of gambling such as loot boxes, skins, or betting on E-sports.
Unexplained Charges or Financial Changes
This could be unexplained charges on credit cards, a sudden lack of money, a sudden increase in money, or a keen interest in the value of virtual items within games.
Significant changes in mood or behaviour can be a sign of a gambling problem. This can include increased irritability, frustration or restlessness, especially if they can't play their games.
Secrecy About Activities
If your child is being overly secretive about what they're doing online, it might be a sign that they're involved in activities they know you wouldn't approve of, like gambling.
If you notice a decline in their school performance or if they're neglecting other responsibilities, hobbies, or activities they used to enjoy, this could be a sign of problem gambling.
Desperation for Money
If they seem unusually desperate for money, it might be because they've lost money gambling and are trying to recoup their losses.
When a young person develops a gambling problem, the consequences can be far-reaching and deeply impactful, leading to depression, anxiety, and severe stress, affecting various aspects of their current life and future.
Making a Change
It's important to recognise that as a parent, guardian, or influential adult in a child's life, you possess the power to affect significant change, especially when your child is grappling with a gambling addiction. Recognising the problem early and taking proactive steps can drastically improve the situation and help your child in regaining control over their life.
When addressing sensitive topics such as gambling addiction with your child, the principles of empathy and openness are paramount. These two qualities set the foundation for a constructive and supportive dialogue that can facilitate your child's understanding and acceptance of the problem, and their willingness to seek help.
Approaching these conversations with empathy and openness does more than just facilitate communication. It can also strengthen your relationship with your child, making them feel loved, understood, and supported. It fosters a sense of trust and comfort that makes it easier for your child to admit they have a problem and to agree to seek help.
It's important to note that these conversations can be challenging and emotionally charged. Patience is key. If you feel unequipped to handle these discussions, consider seeking help from a professional counsellor or therapist who is trained to navigate such sensitive situations. However, even in such cases, your empathetic understanding and openness remain pivotal in supporting your child's path to recovery.
Keeping an Eye on Your Child’s Finances
The first step in this journey is establishing firm ground rules around money. It's important to foster open and honest conversations about financial management, teaching your child about the value of money and the consequences of excessive spending. Regularly monitoring their financial habits can provide early warning signs of potential gambling problems. Look for unusual spending patterns, recurrent cash withdrawals, or excessive secrecy around their expenses. It's advisable to restrict their access to credit cards, bank accounts, and excessive cash.
Guiding Your Child Away from Gambling Triggers
Helping your child avoid potential gambling triggers is a crucial step in their recovery from gambling addiction. Triggers can be varied, ranging from specific environments and situations to emotional states such as stress or boredom.
Start by encouraging your child to identify their personal triggers. Knowing what triggers the urge to gamble allows your child to develop strategies to avoid or cope with these situations.
Next, try to create a safe and stable environment for your child. This could involve reducing exposure to gambling-related content, be it on television, in movies, or online. It might also mean avoiding places where gambling takes place, like casinos or betting shops or implementing software to block gambling websites such as Gamban.
As part of this journey, it's a good idea to encourage your child to distance themselves from friends who gamble, especially at the start of their recovery journey.
Maintaining Control Over Time Spent Online
In our increasingly digital age, controlling the amount of time spent online is a crucial aspect of managing a gambling addiction, especially given the ease and accessibility of online gambling platforms. Implementing strict boundaries around internet use can help limit exposure to potential triggers and provide a structured environment conducive to recovery.
Encourage offline activities that can fill the time previously consumed by online gambling. These can be hobbies, sports, or any interests that can provide a sense of fulfilment and distract from the urge to gamble.
There are many different types of tools and support to suit anyone's needs and recovery journeys but above all, as a parent or guardian, your understanding, patience, and support are invaluable during this time.