For kids these days, playing on a phone or tablet can be second nature. So it’s no wonder the glow of a roulette wheel or interaction of a card game is a natural draw.
In fact, the think tank Demos believes 25,000 children in the UK are classed as problem gamblers, which is why it has been piloting lessons in secondary schools to prevent gambling-related harms.
Demos is an independent, educational charity, which produces original and innovative research. In teaching the children, they designed five lessons to build up teenage resilience to the tactics some companies use to promote their games. The think tank coined the term “delayed gratification” to juxtapose today’s instant hit culture.
Prevention “better than treatment”
In five lessons taught in selected schools across the country, as part of the personal, socia, health and economic curriculum for 14-year-olds, Demos reached 650 pupils. Before starting the programme, just under 40% of pupils surveyed did not agree that gambling was dangerous. This was reflected in the fact that 41% of students said they had participated in gambling within the last year.
The most common form of gambling amongst those surveyed was using money to place bets (21%). This was followed by playing fruit machines (17%) and finally playing cards for money (14%). Only 14% of the pupil’s Demos surveyed had been taught about gambling in school before the pilot.
Simone Vibert, Social Policy Researcher at Demos, said: “Given that young people are routinely taught about the risks of drugs, alcohol and underage sex, the fact that so few are taught about gambling is an anomaly. Problem gambling can wreak havoc on people’s lives, not to mention their friends, families and the wider economy.
“Prevention is clearly preferable to treatment later down the line. These lessons encourage pupils to weigh risk, manage impulses and advise others – all things that can help prevent problem gambling and other risky behaviors too.
“We therefore call upon the government and schools to use these resources to help develop the skills and resilience of pupils, confident in the knowledge that they have been proven to make a difference.”
After a year of focus groups, five-individual lessons and a pre-and-post evaluation survey, the results were in. And they certainly showed significant changes. Over the 12-months, Demos observed a statistically significant decline in the proportion of pupils playing cards for money – with a net decrease of 7% compared to the comparison group.
For some pupils the most substantial increase was in the knowledge they gained to help someone experiencing gambling problems.
Here, Demos saw an 18% increase in kids reporting that they know where to go to talk about gambling problems, an 11% increase in pupils able to describe delayed gratification, and a net 10% increase in pupils understanding the techniques used by the gambling industry to persuade people to gamble.
Dr Jane Rigbye, the director of education at GambleAware, said: “There are legitimate concerns about the impact of gambling-related advertising and the normalization of gambling for children. It is in this context that GambleAware is pleased to have funded this project to explore what may be effective in helping children to understand the nature of gambling and the associated risks, and to become resilient to the harms that can arise.
“We hope the success of this project will support that case for gambling and the risks it poses to be included in the PSHE curriculum in schools in the future.”
Encouragingly, more than 100 schools expressed an interest in taking part in the Demos’ pilot, signaling a significant awareness of the risks posed to kids and teenagers from gambling harms.
The results have now been submitted to the government as part of a recent consultation on the content of PSHE lessons, and both Demos and GambleAware highlighted the need to include gambling-related harm when teaching children about risky behaviors.