Editor, The Messenger:

Many of the most popular holiday gifts this season involve technology and screen time. As parents and care providers try to manage work, education at home, life stress, and countless other new normals, we’ve all been in a position where screens serve as sitters.

Responsible screen time can be of value, but too many care providers aren’t aware that many of those popular gifts may have an unintended consequence: the promotion of gambling among children ill equipped to understand the issue at hand.

For kids, the problem seems innocent on the surface. The National Center of Problem Gambling’s work with the Federal Trade Commission found many online games feature so called “loot boxes.” These treasure chests are a common reward tactic in social gaming and players often see them with bells, whistles, and excitement.

Scientists and leading health experts see something different. The brain processes loot boxes the same way it would a slot machine. Adults can understand and moderate the risks; kids can’t.

Even popular scratch off lottery tickets can pose a risk. The Ohio Lottery encourages people to not give lottery tickets as gifts to minors. The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors at McGill University found early participation in gambling increases likelihood of developing a gambling problem later in life.

Parents and care providers can empower themselves to help address this situation before it becomes a problem. Ohio For Responsible Gambling developed Change The Game to raise awareness of the scope and scale of youth gambling and to identify appropriate prevention tools anyone can use. From practical tips on moderating screen time to a list of games not to play during the holidays, Change the Game isn’t just working to prevent future gambling problems among our youth. We’re working to help those who are being affected right now,

It’s possible for children to have fun, play games online and be safe at the same time. Let’s change the game for Ohio children, one family and one gamer at a time.

Reggie Robinson

Community Coordinator — Health Recovery Services

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