Are Video Games Priming Our Children for Gambling?

Kid with game controller in hands“Right now we are living in a new world, one that we have never experienced before, and with this new world comes the challenge of managing the way our children use technology,” says Nancy Quidas, MCF’s Problem Gambling Program Coordinator.

Most children are now spending substantial amounts of time on electronic devices, and often that means more time spent playing online video games—which can lead to gambling or risk taking behaviors.

Many popular video games feature “loot boxes,” where players can spend money to gain access to mystery game features like better weapons, a better player, or extra points. There’s no way to know when making the purchase which of these features you’ll ultimately get, which can lead some children to make repeated purchases in hopes of getting that one elusive item.

“Without realizing it, when we purchase these items for our children we are supporting the risky behavior of spending real money for unknown virtual rewards,” relates Nancy. “This behavior is actually a form of simulated gambling,” Nancy says. “The definition of gambling is taking a risky action in hopes of winning a desired result,” and that’s exactly what these types of games encourage. What children learn and do now at a young age is something that they will carry with them into adulthood, and these games that we think of as a fun pastime can actually establish unhealthy habits.”

Teaching children to play video games responsibly is the first step in preventing a future gambling problem. Nancy recommends that parents:

  • Set and enforce rules about screen time.
  • Monitor which games your children are playing and make sure they are age-appropriate.
  • Have honest conversations about gambling behaviors within video games.

To learn more about problem gambling and gaming, or for information on how to support a loved one of any age with a problem gambling issue, contact Nancy Quidas, Problem Gambling Program Coordinator at 443-878-3365 or via email.