In the US, 70% of families have a child who plays video games. As COVID-19 continues to keep people indoors and turns usual schedules upside down, kids are spending more time gaming. For them, it’s a way to connect with friends, have fun, and occupy their time. But all that gaming can lead to unintended negative consequences, including problem gambling behavior in adulthood.
Protecting kids while they play video games
- Know the ESRB rating and monitor what they play. A game’s Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB) rating is designed to help parents understand what’s in the game, including real and simulated gambling, to determine if it’s appropriate for their children. However, even if games are not marketed to or made for kids, they may still be rated as appropriate for certain ages. In fact, 97% of social casino games are accessible to kids under age 12.
- Set screen-time limits and encourage other activities. Playing online games for hours on end can mean kids are missing out on social interactions, exercise, or other mentally stimulating activities. That can make them more susceptible to developing problem gaming behaviors and gambling issues in the future.
- Be aware of microtransactions. Paying a small amount of real money for a virtual reward is a microtransaction, which often simulates gambling behaviors. Loot boxes and skins both offer these. Loot boxes can be opened for a chance to win a prize or gain an experience level. Skins change or enhance the look of items or players and can be obtained through loot boxes, completing certain objectives, or earning high scores.
- Have meaningful conversations. Talking to children about the risks of gaming and gambling can help them understand the need for balance and responsible gaming. Having open discussions about the games they play and who they play them with shows kids that parents care about their lives and well-being.
- Watch for warning signs. Knowing the signs of problem gaming or gambling can help parents intervene and get their kids the support they need. Look for irritability, secrecy with devices, money issues, and lack of intertest in or time spent on other activities. The resources at Game Quitters can help parents who think their child may have a gaming disorder.
For more information to help unlock the realities of youth gambling, visit ChangeTheGameOhio.org, an awareness initiative created by Ohio for Responsible Gambling.