In recent years, our relationships counsellors have reported increasing demand from parents to help them engage effectively with children who are problematically involved in gaming and gambling. It’s no wonder this demand is on the rise when you consider mobile devices such as smart phones and tablets mean that gaming can be available wherever and whenever people want it. As internet connectivity improves and becomes cheaper for mobile users, this also means that multi-player gaming and gambling can occur far more easily.
Current research indicates that between 8% and 12% of adolescents are problematically involved in gaming, resulting in social and family conflict, reduced social competence, diminished academic performance and increased depression and suicide ideation.
Primary health and harm minimisation approaches frame all of Relationships Australia (SA)’s gambling help services and were the focus for this project.
The project contracted ten local (Adelaide metro) gamers between the ages of 12 and 17 who identified as significantly involved in gaming over a 9-month period. Given that Take Control is a harm minimisation project targeting young people who are engaged in online gaming/gambling, our youth consultants, while needing to be experienced in gaming and/or online gambling, did not have to be excessive (problematic) users.
The youth consultants worked with:
- Rosemary Hambledon, Gambling Help Practice Manager
- Naomi Ebert Smith, Interactive Education Officer, and
- KerryJ, Online Education Specialist.
Dr. Claire Ralfs, Relationships Australia (SA) Deputy CEO was the Project Sponsor and the project was funded in part by the South Australian Minister for Communities and Social Inclusion.
We used face to face discussion sessions to:
- Explore what is good about online gaming
- Discuss what gaming too much looks like and feels like
- Identify the circuit breakers that worked for them when they gamed too much
- Review what makes for effective health promotions aimed at young people
- Plan and design an online tool and marketing strategy to promote support resources.
The insights and conversations of our consultants fed into an approach rationale document and then they collectively wrote a video script, broadly conceived the logo design, and developed a comprehensive online marketing strategy which they, and some of their friends, are taking responsibility to manage.
Discoveries and surprises
We had originally thought that an app was the most logical output to catch the attention of the mobile generation. However, the consultant group told us that young people are “apped out” and that a You Tube video would reach more people in their early to mid-teens.
We also assumed that there would be restrain in what the consultants were willing to share and that most of them would be resistant to the concept that people could be obsessed with gaming. They were not only willing to acknowledge that obsessive gaming exists – they were open to talking about periods where their own game play was not healthy for them. However most stipulated that it was a specific game in which they became overly engaged, not gaming itself.