The Catalan Audiovisual Council (CAC), through the eduCAC program, the research group in Psychiatry and Mental Health of the Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL), and the Bellvitge University Hospital (HUB) have developed teaching materials to promote the healthy use and critical consumption of video games, as well as to prevent and identify problematic behaviors with online gambling.
It is about the didactic unit called What do you bet?, aimed at 3rd and 4th ESO students. The activity is designed to be carried out in class.
The didactic activities take as a starting point external resources (articles, reports, etc.) and the experience of the students to ensure that, based on their reality, they reflect and become aware of the social and psychological functioning of video games and online gambling games, to make a responsible and critical consumption of entertainment.
The president of the CAC, Roger Loppacher, has explained that in recent years experts detected an increase in young people who develop pathological gambling and that this is highly worrying, and it is necessary to take measures to avoid it. “The CAC reports reveal that young people are heavily exposed to advertising for online videogames and gambling, and therefore, it is necessary a strict regulation and fosters a critical spirit to messages that show these games as a way of life”, he said.
Susana Jiménez Murcia, a principal investigator at IDIBELL and Coordinator of the Pathological Gambling Unit of the Bellvitge University Hospital, says that “if in 2005 only 2% of the patients that request treatment at the Unit were between 16 and 21 years old, during 2021 this rate has increased to 9.5%”. Among all these adolescents, 26.4% do it for problems with the use of video games, and 63.6% consults are for addiction to gambling. And more specifically, 52.4% do it for strategic games such as sports betting.
“When they come for a consultation, the average age is 19 years old and the evolution of their disorder is very fast (1,5 years), and almost 40% of them already accumulate debts,” says Jiménez, who adds, concerning the pandemic effect: “Comparing data from before and after confinement, we identified a decrease in age and an increase in the education level at the time of consultation, as well as an increase in cases due to addiction to videogames”.
The risk of developing addictions and pathological gambling
Recent studies indicate that 82.2% of students aged 14-18 play video games (96.0% boys and 69.0% girls). The use of video games decreases with the age. Specifically, 14-year-old students have a prevalence of 85.5% of video game use, a percentage that decreases as they get older, to 78.1% of 18-year-old students.
The prevalence of disorders due to video games is estimated between 1.96% and 3.05% of the population, depending on the methodology used, according to a study that collects data from 53 studies carried out in 2009 in 17 countries and that analyzed a total of 226,247 people.
Regarding gambling, 10.3% of young people between the ages of 14 and 18 have bet money in the last year, despite being a prohibited practice for minors. The prevalence by sex is 17.4% for boys and 3.6% for girls. Unlike in video games, in the case of online gambling and betting, the prevalence grows with age. Thus, 8.0% of 14-year-olds (boys and girls) gamble money online, and the percentage grows gradually with age, reaching 14.6% in the case of 18-year-olds.
The course What do you bet?, which can be downloaded from the website of the eduCAC program, is composed of 15 didactic activities divided into three parts: video games, gambling, and online betting, and a final part to evaluate the subjects learned, as well as to carry out a classroom project, in which they can organize an esports championship at school or record a podcast.
In the part dedicated to video games, they reflect on what habits they have, they are invited to keep track of how many hours they play per week and if this interferes or conditions other forms of leisure, the issue of security in video game platforms is addressed and they are introduced into the PEGI code.
Likewise, they reflect on the values transmitted by video games and gender stereotypes. Loot boxes are also analyzed. These boxes can be obtained in two ways: buying or playing, that is, investing money (pay to win) or time. Loot boxes use reinforcement patterns that can generate an addictive process that shares similarities with gambling. In this sense, the unit offers resources such as testimonials from people who have developed some kind of addiction to video games.
Regarding the sessions dedicated to gambling and online betting, they reflect on the business behind these games and the values transmitted by tipsters (experts in internet gambling). Also, they reviewed the policies of access to betting websites and the regulations for gambling.
Pilot test in the first quarter of 2022
To study social gambling, problematic and pathological habits, as well as, the use of video games in adolescents, and testing the materials, together with experts from IDIBELL and the Hospital de Bellvitge, it will take place from January to March 2022, a pilot test for 3rd and 4th-year ESO students from the Virolai school and the IES Bellvitge.
During the pilot test, the researchers will study the habits of social gambling and the use of video games in adolescents to evaluate the functionality and effectiveness of the didactic unit.
The Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute (IDIBELL) is a biomedical research center created in 2004. It is participated by the Bellvitge University Hospital and the Viladecans Hospital of the Catalan Institute of Health, the Catalan Institute of Oncology, the University of Barcelona and the City Council of L’Hospitalet de Llobregat.
IDIBELL is a member of the Campus of International Excellence of the University of Barcelona HUBc and is part of the CERCA institution of the Generalitat de Catalunya. In 2009 it became one of the first five Spanish research centers accredited as a health research institute by the Carlos III Health Institute. In addition, it is part of the “HR Excellence in Research” program of the European Union and is a member of EATRIS and REGIC. Since 2018, IDIBELL has been an Accredited Center of the AECC Scientific Foundation (FCAECC).