Hazards to be Aware of in Popular Children’s Games when Holiday Gift Giving

One parent shared that their child ran up a $1,200 credit card bill buying loot boxes and new apps.

The Change the Game Ohio campaign was launched in 2019 and expanded in 2020 to bring attention to the potential harmful effects of traditional gambling and the virtual gambling embedded within gaming for children and adolescents. As with any potential addiction, the earlier people are introduced to the behavior or chemical, the more likely they are to develop problems as adults. 

This is why we need to be careful when thinking of what gifts we’re giving to kids and teens during the holidays.

A large sample of Ohio youth who participated in the Ohio Healthy Youth Environments Survey suggested that 3.4 percent of Ohio teens have behavioral markers for problem gambling. Given the fact that due to recent world events children are more connected than ever before with virtual learning and being home significantly more due to Covid-19 has me personally very worried as a parent. We unfortunately have experienced first hand how destructive gambling can be to a person and their family. People you know and love can change drastically when dealing with a gambling addiction and it’s so heartbreaking to see them struggle. It’s honestly so hard on everyone involved and something I wouldn’t wish upon any family. 

Many games youth play simulate the same excitement and activities experienced by gamblers. Opportunities for instant upgrades, mystery loot boxes and games of chance flash across the screen every time they log in. Additionally, advanced data tracking allows AI-based algorithms to target young people and players with serious gambling problems. I recently watched a popular Netflix documentary that elaborated on the topic of data tracking and it was shocking. Even things we don’t see as harmful, like kids popular video games my own children (and many others) have in their collection can trigger these early cues to the brain and begin to imbed themselves into addictive tendencies that could potentially last a lifetime. The National Center of Problem Gambling also worked with the Federal Trade Commission to study loot boxes, a common reward tactic in social gaming. The similarities between loot boxes and slot machines prompted some of the major video game companies to disclose the odds of loot boxes. Apple also rated games with simulated gambling to M for Mature.  
There’s another popular gift I believe parents and caretakers should rethink when buying for the holidays: lottery tickets. Lottery tickets are often gifted at white elephant gift exchanges and given as small gifts (like in Christmas stockings), and children are often included in these exchanges. The Ohio Lottery encourages people not to give lottery tickets as gifts to minors.  The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University found early participation in gambling increases likelihood of developing a gambling problem later in life.  So while it seems like a harmless gesture, engaging children in gambling activities – even while supervised at family gatherings –  can be the starting point to something quite harmful.

So instead of gifting lottery tickets or some video games, try board games! Board games are a great way to bring the family together and get the kids away from their tablet, TV or computer. 

The resources available at www.ChangetheGameOhio.org are designed to help educate and inform adults and the young people in their lives about the possibility of problems. This campaign also includes a toolkit of marketing materials that can be localized for community outreach.

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