Australia’s teenagers spend more than five hours a day on digital media activities, according to the Australian Communication and Media Authority.
Unlike previous generations, today’s youth have online lives that blend seamlessly with their offline lives. They invite the world into their daily activities through use of computers, smart phones and tablet devices to view content, socialise, communicate, play games, learn and do homework.
And while teenagers are very technology savvy, it is increasingly common to see very young children – sometimes under three – easily navigating their way around a tablet or smartphone to play a game or watch a video.
Alongside the rapid growth in smartphones, tablets and video games that link to the internet, there has been an explosion in downloadable games. There is no doubt these new technologies bring benefits, but as parents, carers and educators we are all aware of the need to protect children and teenagers from the risks that come with it.
An emerging area of serious concern is games that simulate gambling. Increasingly, these games can be played on social media sites, video games that link to the internet and mobile applications. It’s a growing business in a largely unregulated market.
Experts are worried that early exposure of children to games that simulate gambling may lead to problem gambling habits in adulthood. Despite this, most of these games are freely available to young people.
Games that simulate gambling give children the opportunity to practise gambling. Playing these games often becomes a daily activity making gambling seem like part of normal everyday life.
Most simulated gambling games are easier to win at than real-life gambling. This can give children unrealistic expectations that they will always win if they gamble, or make them believe they are ‘lucky’.
These games also blur the line between gambling (where the result is based on chance) and traditional video gaming (where the result is based on the player’s skill). This can make children think they are skilled at gambling.
All these features can give children a positive attitude toward gambling without knowing about its downsides.
Children are more vulnerable to these risks than adults. Common parts of growing up like peer pressure, attraction to risk-taking and limited knowledge of the realities of gambling can make children and teenagers more attracted to simulated gambling games.
Many Australian adults like to have an occasional bet, and in moderation, gambling can be enjoyable entertainment. But being aware of the potential harms of children being exposed to simulated gambling games will help you make informed choices about what your child or teenager can access and play