Should children and adolescents receive education about gambling at school?

On Saturday (December 3), a number of national British newspapers including the Guardian and Daily Telegraph ran a story saying that schoolchildren should be educated about gambling in the classroom. The story concerned GamCare’s response to the recent Government consultation on personal, social, and health education (PSHE). I was pleased to see that the issue of education had been brought to the fore by the charity I co-founded with Paul Bellringer back in 1997. This morning, I was interviewed by TalkSport radio on this issue, and I made a number of references to what I and my colleagues have already been doing in this area for some years.

Educating young people about gambling is – to me at least – no different from educating youth about other consumptive but potentially addictive behaviours such as smoking cigarettes, drinking alcohol, and the talking of illicit drugs. It’s also something I’m passionate about. Thankfully, my passion for the topic led to a major project in this area. In 2006, the Responsibility in Gambling Trust (now called the Responsible Gambling Fund) commissioned Tacade (a charity that promotes the health and well-being of children) and my research unit (the International Gaming Research Unit) to produce education materials on youth gambling to be used in schools and other youth education settings. We were specifically commissioned to:

  • Write new materials and resources for use in school and youth work settings to raise awareness of problem gambling and to enable young people to develop skills, knowledge and attitudes to resist problem gambling
  • Promote these resources very actively to teachers and youth workers using every possible media
  • Train teachers and youth workers to undertake education about problem gambling

The project led to the publication of two sets of comprehensive resources (‘You Bet!’ and ‘Just Another Game?’). Strong user engagement was a key element throughout the project. We incorporated user perspectives by actively involving stakeholders throughout the project process including representatives from business, the voluntary sector, government, international policy makers, and practitioners. In addition, wide-ranging consultations took place with young people and professionals (teachers/learning mentors/youth workers), plus a variety of stakeholder organizations. This resulted in what we believe are an excellent set of free educational resources (details on how to get these are at the end of this article). The main aims of the resources were to enable young people to:

  • Better manage their gambling
  • Make informed appropriate and healthy choices about gambling by providing them with opportunities to develop the knowledge and understanding about the impact of gambling, the personal and social skills to make informed choices and the opportunity to explore attitudes and values relating to gambling
  • Avoid the pitfalls of problem gambling, possibly through behaviour change
  • Help others who may have problems with gambling

As a consequence of the resources we developed, teachers and youth workers can now carry out education about gambling as part of their work in PSHE, Citizenship, and other areas of the school curricula and in informal youth work settings. In 2008 the resources were officially accredited for use on the National Curriculum. In order that professionals working with the resources are fully informed about gambling issues, my team wrote a series of background papers that were included in both sets of resources highlighting key facts such as incidence and extent of young people’s gambling, issues around young people and gambling, support networks and information for parents and carers. In short, we believe it’s a ‘one stop shop’ for anyone keen to educate youth about gambling.

Many may argue that problem gambling in adolescence really isn’t an issue to be concerned with. However, the most recent national prevalence survey on gambling adolescence reported that 2% of adolescents aged 12-15 years had a gambling problem. This prevalence rate is more than twice that of British adults so is something we as a society need to take seriously. So should children and adolescents receive education about gambling in the classroom? Absolutely yes!

Dr Mark Griffiths, Professor of Gambling Studies, International Gaming Research Unit, Psychology Division, Nottingham Trent University, Nottingham, NG1 4BU

Further reading

Griffiths, M.D. (2002). Gambling and Gaming Addictions in Adolescence. Leicester: British Psychological Society/Blackwells.

King, D.L., Delfabbro, P.H. & Griffiths, M.D. (2010). The convergence of gambling and digital media: Implications for gambling in young people. Journal of Gambling Studies, 26, 175-187.

Griffiths, M.D., Parke, J. Derevensky, J. (2011). Remote gambling in adolescence. In J. Derevensky, D. Shek & J. Merrick (Eds.), Youth Gambling Problems: The Hidden Addiction. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Volberg, R., Gupta, R., Griffiths, M.D., Olason, D. & Delfabbro, P.  (2011). An international perspective on youth gambling prevalence studies. In J. Derevensky, D. Shek & J. Merrick (Eds.), Youth Gambling Problems: The Hidden Addiction. Berlin: De Gruyter.

Youth gambling education materials

TACADE/International Gaming Research Unit (2007). Young people’s gambling. In You Bet! Gambling Educational Materials For Young People Aged 11-16 Years. Tacade: Manchester (ISBN: 1-902-469-194).

TACADE/International Gaming Research Unit (2007). Young people’s gambling. In Just Another Game? Gambling Educational Materials For Young People Aged 13-19 Years. Tacade: Manchester (ISBN 1-902469-208).

These are both free to download from the TACADE website:

About drmarkgriffiths

Professor MARK GRIFFITHS, BSc, PhD, CPsychol, PGDipHE, FBPsS, FRSA, AcSS. Dr. Mark Griffiths is a Chartered Psychologist and Distinguished Professor of Behavioural Addiction at the Nottingham Trent University, and Director of the International Gaming Research Unit. He is internationally known for his work into gambling and gaming addictions and has won many awards including the American 1994 John Rosecrance Research Prize for “outstanding scholarly contributions to the field of gambling research”, the 1998 European CELEJ Prize for best paper on gambling, the 2003 Canadian International Excellence Award for “outstanding contributions to the prevention of problem gambling and the practice of responsible gambling” and a North American 2006 Lifetime Achievement Award For Contributions To The Field Of Youth Gambling “in recognition of his dedication, leadership, and pioneering contributions to the field of youth gambling”. In 2013, he was given the Lifetime Research Award from the US National Council on Problem Gambling. He has published over 710 research papers, five books, over 150 book chapters, and over 1500 other articles. He has served on numerous national and international committees (e.g. BPS Council, BPS Social Psychology Section, Society for the Study of Gambling, Gamblers Anonymous General Services Board, National Council on Gambling etc.) and is a former National Chair of Gamcare. He also does a lot of freelance journalism and has appeared on over 3000 radio and television programmes since 1988. In 2004 he was awarded the Joseph Lister Prize for Social Sciences by the British Association for the Advancement of Science for being one of the UK’s “outstanding scientific communicators”. His awards also include the 2006 Excellence in the Teaching of Psychology Award by the British Psychological Society and the British Psychological Society Fellowship Award for “exceptional contributions to psychology”.

Posted on December 6, 2011, in Adolescence, Gambling, Problem gamblng, Psychology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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