The bus with the kids looked like a Las Vegas casino. “There were sounds of coins falling”

Krzysztof Wróbel makes daily commercials, music videos and reports. He was recently upset when he saw an advertisement for a mobile gambling game on the Internet. – It was then that I realized how many children I saw looking at phones and playing in buses, pubs and shops every day. They play colored coins and other treasures. Nothing can tear them away. Each time one of the parents tries, the child reacts with incredible aggression, screams, hisses or becomes hysterical – he says.

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And adds:- These games are designed to engage the brain as much as possible on a subconscious level. Everything is carefully thought out and intense: the combination of colors, the rhythm of the game, the flashes, the sounds…

Often nothing can stop the child from playing (shutterstock)

After Krzysztof “Wróbel Basically” posted an article about teenage gamers on his Instagram profile, a friend of mine wrote to him. Recently, she took care of children in the colonies. – They were in a bus like a Las Vegas casino. Everyone had a hand-sized phone and was playing. From time to time there was sounds of coins falling and banging like in a casino – reports Wrobel.

– Early exposure to gambling causes the adult gamer to gamble often and have a problem with it. He may also become prone to other compulsive activities, such as drug addiction or excessive shopping. – admits Dr. Bernadeta Lelonek-Kuleta from the Catholic University of Lublin, who deals with gambling disorder, is also a psychotherapist

virtual money

Gambling is allowed from the age of 18, but online games have no age limit. – Laws are not a bet, although their elements are very similar to game mechanics – emphasizes Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

And illustrates it with concrete examples: – Slot machines or roulette games played by children are not based on real money, which means that under the law they are not considered a bet. However, there are so-called virtual money, that is, virtual money that is easy to earn. It brings a lot of reinforcement, for example a good mood and the joy of winning. They encourage you to keep playing.

Some games look like game mechanics (shutterstock)

The so-called skins, i.e. new virtual costumes or armor of game heroes. – The Dutch countries notice that such skins or other virtual loot can then be sold illegally on the Internet, thanks to which they acquire real value. This is a contribution to the treatment of these games as gambling – says Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

In games, there are also lootboxes, i.e. boxes whose contents players do not know. – These boxes contain, for example, skins or other accessories. Sometimes they are very valuable to the player and are a reward for leveling up. It is also possible to cash in illegally in the underground economy. We are therefore dealing with randomness, uncertainty and gain, which clearly constitute the bet. – explains Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

Recently it has become popular to open boxes with other players. in a playroom, where there are reactions from other people and a fanfare that stirs up emotions. It looks a lot like the game – believes the researcher.

Scratch cards, lotteries, horse racing

Beata Bia³y in her book “Hazardzi¶ci. Game for life” cites the findings of the December 2017 CBOS research project “Adolescents in the Gaming Network”. They are worrying because up to 80 percent. teenagers who spend time in online casinos are classified in the gambling addiction risk group, and more than 10% have symptoms of a developed addiction. – Pathological online games are very often accompanied by Internet addiction. They are represented by 33 percent. teenagers addicted to gambling – says Beata Bia³y.

Doctor Lelonek-Kuleta:- We are currently conducting a research project to show what the problem of adolescent gambling looks like. Last year, almost 35%. Young French people between the ages of 15 and 17 admitted to playing games of chance. They most often opted for scratch cards – more than 78%, lotteries – more than 48%, sports betting – more than 28%. and online sports betting – more than 21%

The opportunity to play should not be a reward for the child (shutterstock)

Teenagers also enjoy slot machines, poker and horse racing. – In Poland, half of teenagers who gamble periodically bet on the Internet and four out of five take part in traditional games of chance. The scary part is that parents really don’t know much about their kids’ online gambling – adds Bia³y.

The mother of 11-year-old Kamil had no such awareness. She only realized this when her son couldn’t sit at the table during Christmas Eve dinner. He wasn’t interested in presents under the Christmas tree. He just waited to run to his room and play. – He could spend all his afternoons like this. Eventually he began to fail in science. The teachers said Kamil was distracted. It turned out that he was playing at night. Once his mother told him to stop, he went crazy. He became more and more aggressive, then he stole his mother’s credit card and started spending money on gambling – recalls Beata Bia³y.

Kamil got addicted to the game of building fortresses. But to build you need to buy various accessories. – It’s called “pay to win” – explains the author of “Gamardzistes”.

The child does not ask

Research conducted by the Dbam o Moje Zasiêg Foundation in 2020 shows that people between the ages of 16 and 24 make up almost a quarter of all gamers. Up to 64 percent of mobile gaming enthusiasts are pupils and students. 74 percent of respondents use them to kill their free time, and 56 percent. to relax and de-stress.

Kamil started playing when he was 11 years old. How can I be sure that the person playing the game is of legal age? – In legal online sports establishments or in the only online casino in Poland, you must send a photo of your identity card. However, you can take it from one of your parents, just like Kamil stole his mother’s credit card. – believes Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

Teenagers betting or betting on race results (shutterstock)

In his opinion, however, the biggest problem with children’s addiction is not legal games, but illegal games. – In Poland, the law allows private operators to organize gambling in the form of sports betting – the operators pay taxes and all games are registered. Illegal games are those where the server is somewhere in the world, a foreign operator, not registered, but the site has Polish subtitles. Here are the rules of the so-called responsible gambling, that is, among other things, a minor can register on the website and no one will check or block it. In addition, the child does not wonder if it is a legal game or not – said the researcher.

Since she monitors the game market very closely, she often enters the Internet herself and clicks on advertisements. – You can immediately choose the game type and payment method. Yes, sometimes there is also a request to confirm that you are of legal age, but you just have to click on “yes” and no one of the player’s age checks – he adds.

The therapist points out that those most at risk of gambling addiction are children whose parents allow them to use a cell phone or laptop on their own. Usually the problem is with 12-13 year olds, although also younger, whose parents do not interfere with what their children are watching on the phone or tablet. – They recognize that the Internet is their natural environment. And children are looking for new, more attractive games. Some parents give their children money to buy a game as a reward. It’s a huge risk – says Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

Experts advise encouraging the child to actively spend free time (shutterstock)

“I talked to my son about the games”

She recently noticed that an advertisement for roulette appeared on her son’s computer screen. Very insistent. – I immediately told my son about gambling and his addiction. And as you know, the player usually spends more than he earns, because these are the game mechanics – emphasizes the therapist.

New technology specialists are careful not to treat the possibility of a child using a telephone or laptop as a reward. – It is also wiser not to tell the child that if he is in a bad mood, he should play games. Escaping from unpleasant emotions in the game activates a typical addictive mechanism. It is also important to create a balance in your activities. Encourage sports or develop hobbies, not just give your child a phone – postulates Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta.

The internet is a natural environment for children today (shutterstock)

He adds that he lets his son play simple games on the computer, but it’s all sorts of developing puzzles, for example, word order. And there is no game reward mechanism.

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Three years of rehabilitation

The World Health Organization recognized in 2018 that gambling disorder is a disease entity. – Undoubtedly, it is entertainment that can be addictive. He can’t be underestimated – emphasizes the therapist.

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Kamil’s mother, like many parents, thought the internet was her son’s natural environment. However, she did not warn him that, just like in the real world, there are various dangers within him that he should learn to defend himself against. In the end, desperate and terrified, she enrolled her entire family in therapy. It is infrequent, as it is estimated that only 3 to 5 percent. people addicted to gambling decide to consult a specialist for help.

According to Dr. Lelonek-Kuleta, the effectiveness of the therapy is estimated at around 50%. Did three-year rehab save the boy? Beata Bia³y: – I don’t know, I no longer have contact with his mother. Moreover, no conscious player will say that the issue of addiction is already in his head. Because you are a gambler, just like an alcoholic, for the rest of your life.

Angelique Swoboda. Journalist of He specializes in original conversations with brave people. Passionate about coffee, elephants and classic cars.

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