We looked at how children and young people can be harmed by somebody else’s gambling. But what about their own gambling? Currently 55.000 11-16 year olds are described as suffering from compulsive gambling. 

Many of us when we were kids played cards with pocket money or threw coins against a wall. Probably most of us enjoyed the amusement arcades at the seaside. It was fun, pleasurable, exciting. Even when no money was involved, we all liked board games. Maybe a parent or older adult put on a bet for us during the Grand National. And most of us have not come to harm.

These days, though, things have changed significantly. The internet has brought tremendous changes. We are all aware of the risks children face online. Many organisations exist to support carers in protecting children from several abuses.

With online gambling there is always a risk that a young person may find their way to sites which carers have tried very hard to protect them from.

The bright moving lights and sounds are very attractive. Gambling machines are designed to be. Children love pressing buttons and switches. 

Young people can now play without money on virtual slot machines which give them tokens. It’s just a game. But they are designed to give frequent ‘wins’, and also designed to be compulsive – in the way that most of us find at least some of the time our smartphone or other digital device pulling us into a compulsive zone of endless scrolling and clicking. And we’re adults. We may be aware of how much time we’re seemingly mindlessly absorbed, and tell ourselves we should be spending our time in better ways. But somehow the device keeps pulling us back. 

If we add to that the thrill, the buzz of beating the machine, the smooth attraction of its design with its lights and sounds, that can be quite a potent mix.

And, of course, if a young person moves on from a -pretend- slot machine to a real one, that lucky winning streak will disappear.

Loot Boxes are very popular. Basically players (children) purchase items without knowing what they will be. It’s gambling that you’ll get something good.

The Gambling Education Hub has a very clear and simple description of various games that children like which involve similar behaviour.

The line between gaming (playing a game) and gambling is blurred.

The Gambling Education Hub is  part of Fast Forward, an organisation which works to minimise risks to young people, for instance from smoking, alcohol, drugs and gambling.  They have a Family Area. The booklet  to the left is from there and offers advice about talking about gambling with children. You can download it here. (Any readers who themselves work with young people will find it worthwhile to look at Fast Forward‘s work with youth, and the training they offer to others).

There is also a more detailed look at gaming, gambling and children at Parentzone.

An issue which arises from children’s early exposure to gambling-like products is that these may be a gateway to their later becoming adult gamblers The excitement associated with games may carry over to later life. We know that 16-25 year olds are the section of the population most involved with online gambling, particularly sports betting.