‘Gambling disorder could be linked half to genetics, half to environment’

When asked about how parents can understand if their children will develop a long term addiction or gambling disorder in the future, Professor Mark Potenza of Yale University explained that there was no easy answer, expect that there could be links between genetics and environment.

Professor Potenza explained that a disorder could originate 50% through genetics or a family history of addictions. The other half could be driven by environmental factors.

There could be likely interactions between the two drivers but with the field continuing to develop, there was no way of providing definitive answers at this time.  Instead the focus is on providing parents with the information they need while also encouraging parents to develop regimes to support the healthy development of their children.

Gaming and gambling worlds overlapping

Professor Potenza explained that it was important for people to understand that with the expansion of the internet and the environment of gaming and gambling, these two areas actively intersecting.

He explained that children are playing games which introduce them to aspects like finding treasure boxes and loot boxes which carry content which they can use in the game but carries a virtual value. These items are obtained through spending long periods of time playing the game as well as through micro-transactions where they spend money to play the game.

In certain European countries like Belgium and the Netherlands, these aspects are considered illegal because they constitute a form of gambling.

Added to this are the emergence of social casino games featuring roulette and slot machine games which although do not allow children to compete for real money, they provide an impression of gambling which would not translate well if they gamble in real life.

He explains that if children are allowed to play these games without proper guidance and understanding of their impact, they risk developing an interest in gambling and an addiction which will have dire consequences for the rest of their lives.

A gentle and persistent nudge

When asked about what parents can do to help notice the signs of a gaming disorder and help their children, the Professor explained that gentle and persistent nudges, dialogue and education would be the best method, even if the child was not responsive at first.

He explains that the US Psychiatric Association’s 5th Diagnosis and Statistical Manual stated that a provisional diagnosis for internet gaming disorder showed signs through poor academic performance, social isolation, irritation and short term and long period of gaming.

Excessive gaming also interfered in children’s relationships and negative responses like bed wetting and violent behavior evidenced by children having their access restricted by parents.

Therefore, in order to counteract a possible addiction developing, parents had to take a greater role in monitoring their children’s patterns of playing video games, to be vigilent of the signs and to speak with them proactively about the impact on their lives.

This he believes is the best way for parents to guide their children and to help them grow up and develop into later adolescence in a healthier way.

It’s tough to do this but he recommends parents to ‘hang in there’.