UK national charity YGAM has joined with research teams from Newcastle and Loughborough Universities to help parents and carers understand the danger of loot boxes, with one young respondent in the Economic and Social Research Council funded project confirming how he spent nearly £500 buying packs of random cards.
The expert insight and advice is being posted on YGAM’s new ‘Parent Hub’ website www.parents.ygam.org. The hub which has been developed thanks to funding received from Lottoland, GVC and Playtech, provides families with the resources, information and activities to help build digital resilience and safeguard children. ‘Parent Hub’ helps explain why children are drawn to purchase loot boxes, ranging from the surprise and suspense of opening a box and the desire to win something rare, to receiving specific items that deliver an in-game advantage or boost their social status.
The research covers the potential harm loot boxes can cause, such as young people’s exposure to and normalisation of gambling style systems, as well as the emotional and financial harm from repeat spending – with one young person telling researchers how he spent nearly £500 in a mobile card game by buying packs of random cards, playing for up to seven hours a day. The advice covers how parents can take important steps to safeguard children, including the use of parental controls and identifying potential signs of harm.
“For some children, the act of opening a loot box is as important as what it contains” explains Dr James Ash, Reader in Technology, Space and Society at Newcastle University, who is leading the research. “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.”
Amanda Atkinson, Head of Parental Engagement at YGAM said the research will help inform and develop the charity’s educational programmes so that all young and vulnerable people are safe from gaming and gambling related harms. She stated: “Certainly the enormous variety of games and in-app purchases that are 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 this may have on mental and financial wellbeing.”
In collaboration with GamCare, YGAM is delivering the UK’s ground-breaking National Gambling Education and Prevention Programme. Supported by members of the Betting and Gaming Council, the £10 million programme will reach over 3 million young people to raise awareness of the risks of potential gaming and gambling related harms.