The Young Gamers and Education Trust (YGAM) has launched ‘Parent Hub’, which is designed to educate parents about the dangers of loot boxes in video games – plus the potential harms related to gambling. 

Through this service, families will gain access to ‘resources, information and activities to help build digital resilience and safeguard their children’. 

YGAM will also raise awareness of online gambling and the associated possible risks through in-person workshops for parents. 

The organisation has teamed up with two UK universities for this initiative, along with receiving funding from various gambling and lottery operators and suppliers.  

Ensuring that parents have enough knowledge about gambling-related risks 

Funding from Lottoland, GVC and Playtech enabled YGAM to build Parent Hub. Much of the content revolves around creating a healthy online-offline balance for children and young adults. 

The portal aims to show parents why youngsters are drawn to loot boxes – with motivating factors including the surprise and suspense of winning a rare item. Acquiring these can lead to a higher social status amongst their friends, as well as advantages when playing the game itself. 

YGAM Head of Parental Engagement Amanda Atkinson spoke about the Parent Hub initiative and had the following to say.

“The enormous variety of games and in-app purchases available can make it confusing for parents to keep on top of safety controls. 

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

Parent Hub includes resources for parents of primary-aged children, right up to those aged 18. 

For parents of primary and secondary school children, YGAM is also offering a workshop deliverable in either schools or local communities. Lasting for two hours, this will increase knowledge related to online gambling through a mixture of videos and activities. 

Loot boxes in games have received scrutiny from many 

In the UK, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) said that it wants to better-understand loot boxes and determine whether or not they need to have an age rating attached to them. That step has already been taken elsewhere, with Belgium subjecting these in-game features to the country’s gambling laws as of April 2018. 

Researchers from Loughborough and Newcastle Universities have partnered with YGAM to conduct research on and share additional information related to loot boxes. This “builds on research at the universities which explores children and young people’s experiences of in-game purchases and the effects this has on their wellbeing”. 

The research will be funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). 

Leading this part of the project is Dr. James Ash, who is a reader in technology, space and society at Newcastle University. He spoke about the similarities that can arise between loot boxes and gambling addiction. 

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

“Children and young people have told us how they feel disappointment, frustration, anger, and regret at loot box purchases, yet they are still driven to purchase again.

“This is concerning, given the deliberate design of these mechanisms – the visual stimulus, the randomised contents, and the very unfavourable odds for unboxing rare items – which can lead to repeat loot box purchases.”