YGAM Launches Online ‘Parent Hub’ Site

Youth gambling charity YGAM has launched a new online educational tool to inform families about the risks of gambling. Its new ‘Parent Hub’ aims to safeguard children from gambling harms. Expert advice also comes from university researchers, who have put together information on how to control loot box purchases. YGAM will also be offering community workshops.

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During lockdown, children have spent more time at home gaming. For some, this makes the temptation of loot boxes harder to control. ©EVG photos/Pexels

Information and Resources for Parents

The Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust, otherwise known as YGAM has just launched an innovative new educational tool for families. The new ‘Parent Hub’ aims to offer families useful information, resources and activities to help safeguard children from gambling harms.

The launch of YGAM’s new ‘Parent Hub’ is timed aptly, as schools are breaking up for the summer holidays. The site will help families to build up their children’s digital resilience through the use of tools and activities. Parents and carers will also be able to take advantage of resources and support around gaming and gambling.

By working closely with young people, parents and carers, the gambling charity has produced this site to protect those who are most vulnerable to gambling harms, educate families on the risks associated and to help establish a healthy online / offline balance.

Alongside the ‘Parent Hub’, YGAM is offering two-hour workshops for parents of children in primary and secondary school. These workshops can take place in both schools and local communities. By getting the message out into the community through activities, videos and discussions, these workshops will help parents and carers in understanding online play and gambling. Learning will not be limited to the classroom, as these tools can also be brought back into the home.

The launch of YGAM’s ‘Parent Hub’ and community workshops comes at a time when children are playing more online and digital games during the coronavirus lockdown. This has sparked concern; especially as headlines about loot boxes and underage gambling have dominated papers over the last year. Last month, the DCMS announced a call for evidence on loot boxes, so it is possible that they could be reclassified as gambling products before the end of this year.

YGAM has also collaborated with researchers at Newcastle University and Loughborough University to create advice and guidance for parents on in-game purchases. According to the researchers, parents and carers need to take steps to control in-app purchases made by their children while gaming.

Steps include disabling pop-ups, enabling in-app and on-device parental controls and setting passwords for in-game purchases. Adults can also restrict and disable these purchases and set boundaries, such as a monthly spending limit.

Expert Advice on Loot Boxes

The educational tools on ‘Parent Hub’ and the advice of these researchers is essential in helping parents and care providers to understand the risks that children face when it comes to gaming and gambling online. With loot boxes as a key example, parents will be able to learn about why children are drawn into spending money on them. Suspense, the opportunity of winning something rare, social status and gaming advantage all play a hand in the overall appeal of loot boxes.

However, loot boxes do not come without risk. Campaigners say that their compulsive nature means that they should fall into the same category as gambling. Children who have had problems with spending too much on loot boxes experience emotional harm, such as anger and disappointment. Financial harm is also a problem too, with reports of some children racking up debts on their parents credit cards.

Dr James Ash is a Reader in Technology, Space and Society at Newcastle University. He is leading the research, and explains some of the psychology behind the mass appeal of loot boxes to young gamers. According to Ash:

“For some children, the act of opening a loot box is as important as what it contains. Feelings of surprise and suspense lead to repeat purchase of loot boxes. But this is often short-lived.”

After learning about the risks of gaming and gambling, parents and carers can find out how to safeguard their children from harms online. This includes making the most of parental controls and being able to identify signs of gambling-related harm. Amanda Atkinson is Head of Parental Engagement at YGAM. She sympathizes with how difficult it can be for parents to keep track of their children’s gaming purchases online. Atkinson says:

“Through our educational resources, we are focused on providing crucial information to parents so they can identify changes in behaviors and understand the effects that gambling and gaming may have on mental and financial well-being.”

YGAM has also been working with GamCare to deliver the ‘National Gambling-Harms Education and Prevention Programme’. The £10 million program has been supported by members of the Betting and Gaming Council and will reach more than 3 million young people.

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