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Australian MP pushes for loot box restrictions

Two children under bed covers playing video games
Image: iStock

Australian Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie is pushimg for restrictions on video games that feature loot boxes.

According to Herald Sun, Wilkie condemned loot boxes as “barely disguised gambling”.

 

What are loot boxes?

According to Parent Zone, loot boxes are “virtual treasure chests”. They allow players to change weapns or characters.

Due to the rise of online gaming, the dynamic of gaming has changed. Buying a computer game is no longer a one – time purchase. Computer games, (including iPads, phones, etc) often require players to buy a subscription, rewards or coins to advance in the game. This is why loot boxes are concerning.

 

Gambling and the role of parents and caregivers

Children gambling is a growing concern. Earlier this year, Sydney Morning Herald reported 40 per cent of NSW children aged 12 – 17 were playing games with features that emulate gambling. 

Games featuring loot boxes, coins and rewards proved concerning. 3.7% of children studied were considered problem gamblers or at high risk.

There are a number of risk factors to this worrying trend. Parents who gamble are a risk factor. 58 per cent of children who gambled also had parents who gamble. 20 per cent had grandparents who did.

This makes sense. Addiction often has a genetic component. Also, parental modelling is important. Children often pick up habits and stressors from their families. This is why I think the issue deserves a holistic approach.

 

Problem gambling and mental health

Problem gambling is mental illness. Fourth Edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual for Mental Disorders (DSM IV) listed problem gambling as an impulse control disorder.

Additionally, problem gambling often co – occurs with other mental conditions.

According to the Department of Health and Aging, problem gambling has similarities to substance use disorder. People with pre – existing mood disorders, especially depression, are at higher risk for problem gambling.

Chronic isolation can also make problem gambling worse. Due to COVID and restrictions, it wouldn’t be surprising if addictions were exacerbated, including among children and teens.

Politicians need to take mental health seriously if they want to attack this issue. They should seriously consider making all psychotherapies free under Medicare. They also need to ensure there are adequate services.

Additionally, there needs to be adequate guidance counsellors and social workers need to be in schools. 

 

Mother supports Wilkie’s proposal

Faye James, mother of son Pablo, eight, supports the bill.

This kind of bill is fundamental. We need to make parents aware of what they’re getting their kids into. Restrictions and transparency is key.

I don’t disagree that restrictions should be in place. Children should not have free access to gambling – style games.

However, I can’t help but think this is a Band – Aid solution. Focus on mental health and access to appropriate services. Make sure that children get the support they need. And, maybe we’ll see the problem decrease. 

If you are in Australia and you or someone you know is struggling mentally, you can contact:

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636 (they also have a web chat)

Kids Helpline: 1800 55 1800 (for people under 25 or their parents or caregivers)

As always, for those outside Australia, feel free to offer any contact information to mental health services below.