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Safeguarding Students Engaged With Online Gambling


Kelly Ofasi

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This blog post was originally published on The Safeguarding Company website >> https://www.thesafeguardingcompany.com/resources/blog/safeguarding-students-engaged-with-online-gambling/

SAFEGUARDING STUDENTS ENGAGED WITH ONLINE GAMBLING

In this blog, we summarise our webinar Safeguarding Students Engaged with Online Gambling with guest speaker Carole Phillips.

Carole spent 24 years in education as a DSL and is a criminologist with an interest in youth offending behaviour. In the webinar, she went through the risks of online gambling in children. Watch the full webinar HERE.

Whilst traditional gambling venues do exist, it is now possible to gamble from the comfort of our own home via digital platforms away from the gaze of the public. Young gamblers are at high risk to be exposed to or experiencing online gambling and experiencing significant problems. This is a new area of safeguarding, schools previously did not have to consider and it was not recognised several years ago.

CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE AT RISK

Children and young people who already belong to an ‘at risk’ group, such as having co-morbid addictive behaviour, having parents who gamble, low emotional state, to name but a few, potentially are more likely to develop a gambling problem.

Addictive behaviour within a family setting is one of the Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), so this needs to be considered with other factors when dealing with young people who become addicted to gaming and gambling. Open dialogue with parents and young people is paramount and thinking outside the box when asking questions relating to a young person who presents as having issues that at first, you might not be able to identify.  

Gambling is based on chance and gives a sense of being on a ‘winning streak’, which becomes addictive. Young people develop unrealistic or false beliefs about gambling and the odds of winning. We need to ensure young people do not normalize gambling and steer them from harm with advice and support.

STATISTICS

In 2021, the Gambling Commission and 2VC conducted a piece of research, Exploring the gambling journeys of young people. The aim of this research was to explore the gambling journeys and behaviour of young people and young adults.

The research found that in most cases exposure to gambling at an early age can lead to an increased interest in gambling later in life. Other influential factors include active encouragement by parents to gamble, encouragement from friends to gamble and having parents who frequently gamble.

Friends were found to play a hugely influential role in encouraging gambling behaviour; the majority of 16-25 years olds who were surveyed did at least half of their gambling with friends. This type of social gambling can result in peer pressure as well as skewing people’s view of what is ‘normal’ gambling behaviour, and some young people feel encouraged by friends to spend and stake more.

The following suggestions came from the research:

  • Parents need to be educated on protecting children from the extremes of gambling, both positive and negative behaviours
  • Young people needed to be educated on what ‘normal’ play looks like
  • Likewise, there needs to be education around neutralising gambling to minimise the risk of unsafe play, including an understanding of gambling odds and the probability of losing
  • There needs to be a more holistic approach to tackling gambling and peer pressure within friendship groups

GAMBLING AND ESPORT

eSports describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. Competitors from different leagues or teams face off in the same games that are popular with at-home gamers: Fortnite, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Call of Duty, Overwatch and Madden NFL, to name a few.

With more and more children and young people gaming competitively online gaming is one of the fastest-growing forms of entertainment.  In 2019, video game revenues totalled $139 billion. By 2022, the global video game market is estimated to be nearly $200 billion.

This can link to online gambling as some online games have the options for players to buy hints, powerups or even pay to remove adverts from free online games. Research carried out by Dr David Zendle stated that the relationship between gaming and problem gambling is complex and there was evidence that players were more likely to suffer from disordered gaming – a condition where persistent and repeated use of playing video games caused individuals distress or significant impairment.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS

In the webinar, Carole gave some signs to recognise gaming or gambling additions which include:

Sleep Deprivation

  • The relationship with gaming far outweighs the need to sleep
  • Lack of energy, falling asleep during the day, often lethargic in lessons
  • Loss of enthusiasm for things they once liked doing, due to tiredness
  • Change in sleep patterns

Behavioural Changes

  • Losing interest in usual activities or hobbies
  • Neglecting schoolwork, missing deadlines, loss of interest in studying
  • Not wanting to spend time with friends, family
  • Feeling anxious, irritable, worried, on edge
  • Lying about gambling or hiding it
  • Obsessive behaviour toward gaming
  • Lack of care toward themselves

Signs that gambling is getting out of control can include:

  • Not being able to stop or control how often they gamble
  • Sudden change in how much money they may have
  • An increase in how much money they use to gamble
  • Borrowing money to feed a gambling habit
  • Telling lies about how much they spend on gambling or winnings
  • Interest in gambling and gambling-related activities more than they should
  • The desperate need to win back money or possessions that they may have lost due to gambling
  • Become angry when approached about their gambling habits
  • Secrecy about gambling, or a denial that there is a problem

ADVICE FOR TEACHERS

Carole had the following advice for schools:

  • Ensure staff are trained to understand and recognise signs of gambling and know where to signpost
  • Encourage parents to speak to their children about gambling in the same way they would about any potentially risky activity that comes with growing up
  • Deliver lessons on risky behaviour, including gambling, via the PSHE curriculum – good sources of training and resources are YGAM and Gamble Aware
  • Gamble Aware has developed a Brief Intervention Guide which can assist your school address the risks and harms associated with gambling
  • Listen to young people without judgement if they disclose an addiction or gambling problem
  • Involve parents and external agencies, if needed, in supporting the young person
  • Do not be afraid to approach the conversation around gambling if you are suspicious – it is better to think ‘outside the box’ than to hesitate in discussing your concerns

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