Summertime Boredom: How Video Games Can Lead to Future Gambling Problems
Schools out! Summer vacation is here, and with this break from school comes a lot of extra downtime to fill for students from adolescents to college age. One way kids and teens curb their boredom is by playing video games, often alone, with parents at work and kids left to their own devices, it can be challenging to keep their gaming in check. That’s why it’s essential for parents to learn the risks of excessive gaming, its link to problem gambling, and what they can do to address this growing issue. As a nation, we’re seeing a drastic increase in a sedentary lifestyle, which can lead to depression and anxiety. Kids and teens for ages 8-18 spend an average of more than 7 hours a day looking at screens. 
Video gaming, much like problem gambling, can quickly become addictive for players of all ages, but it poses a significant risk for the developing minds of children. A recent study found that of surveyed youth, about one in ten showed signs of addictive behaviors, and some respondents even displayed six out of the 11 symptoms the American Psychiatric Association uses to identify compulsive gambling.  Among the more than 90% of US kids that play video games , researchers have found that young gamers are more prone to aggressive thoughts and feelings, desensitization to violence, and anti-social behavior. 
When gamers win a prize or finish a new level, the reward centers in their brains release dopamine that gives them a rush. The more this release happens, the more gamers crave the rush and the more gaming they have to do to achieve the same feeling.  While video game addiction doesn’t necessarily lead to problem gambling, the neurological imbalances caused by gaming may be priming children for addictive behaviors.  As reported in the Florida FY 2021/22 Helpline report 53% of problem gamblers this year (versus 48% in 2020/2021) started gambling before age 26, and 17% started prior to the legal gambling age of 18 (an increase from the past fiscal year of 13%). There has been a 33% increase over the past three fiscal years of gamblers first starting to gamble at, or before, the age of 25. (7)
Protecting children from developing addictive behaviors is essential for healthy development. Video games and applications, as well as their developers, are taking advantage of children’s access to these platforms. According to our research, technological advances and software for online, mobile, and video game applications, geared toward youth of all ages, as well as adults, is leading the gambling industry. 
While these developments are concerning, there are steps you can take to safeguard your children’s mental and physical health from the negative impacts of video game addiction, including:
- Limiting screen time: Children over the age of six should be limited to two hours on non-school days. 
- Monitor your own activities and set the right example
- Disable in-app purchases
- Explain the danger of gaming to children
- Understand their motivations and monitor their actions 
We understand that many parents feel a bit out of their depth as technology continues to advance, but there are many ways to protect your children from harmful behaviors. If you, your teen, or other loved ones are struggling with problem gambling, you can call 888-ADMIT-IT, the FCCG’s 24/7, multilingual, and completely free Helpline that has all the resources you need to start the path to recovery this summer.
- “Research and Resources.” All Kids Bike, 23 Feb. 2023, allkidsbike.org/research-and-resources/?gclid=CjwKCAjw4ZWkBhA4EiwAVJXwqa9WJeFRIMHVKMPnxmjmbJREVNiv3hoHTODP7DbMOAEuwTiYHoHFiBoCA-IQAvD_BwE.
- Seay, Nikki. “Excessive Video Gaming Can Alter a Child’s Brain.” Drug Rehab Options, 28 Sept. 2022, rehabs.com/blog/excessive-video-gaming-can-alter-a-childs-brain/.
- Barclay, Rachel. “Do Video Games Make Kids Saints or Psychopaths (and Why Is It So.” Healthline, 20 Oct. 2018, www.healthline.com/health-news/video-games-saints-or-psychopaths-082814#A-Daily-Dose-of-Violence.
- “The Good and the Bad Effects of Video Games on Children.” Institute for Educational Advancement, 25 May 2022, educationaladvancement.org/blog-the-good-and-the-bad-effects-of-video-games-on-children – :~:text=Video games can have a,increased aggressive thoughts and feelings.
- “Video Games and Screen Addiction .” Mayo Clinic Health System, 1 July 2022, www.mayoclinichealthsystem.org/hometown-health/speaking-of-health/are-video-games-and-screens-another-addiction.
- “2021–2022 24-Hour Problem Gambling Annual HelpLine Report.” Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, February 5, 2023.
- “Healthy Limits on Video Games.” Child Mind Institute, 17 Jan. 2023, childmind.org/article/healthy-limits-on-video-games/#:~:text=Put%20clear%20limits%20on%20your,less%20on%20non%2D%20school%20days.
- “Can Playing Video Games Lead to a Gambling Problem?” Algamus, 28 Apr. 2022, https://www.algamus.org/blog/video-games-gambling-problem#:~:text=The%20signs%20of%20a%20gaming,beer%20or%20glass%20of%20wine.