For many gaming can be a good way to relax and unwind. It may take your mind off things and might even help you forget your problems. However, there are growing concerns that an increasing number of both children and adults are becoming more and more reliant on their mobile devices,
online gaming and social media. Some estimates suggest that more than 46 million Britons of all ages may be addicted to such activity.
Recently Prince Harry has called for a ban for the game Fortnite claiming that it was 'created to addict' and 'the game should not be allowed'. He also stated that 'social media was more addictive than alcohol and drugs'. There is a lot of research out there to suggest that there is a direct correlation between those youngsters who develop an addiction to online gaming and those that go on to become disordered gamblers.
As parents of a recovering disordered gambler we wish we had been able to recognise the early warning signs that looking back were clearly evident. Many of our friends were also concerned about the amount of time their child was spending on social media and playing games such as FIFA or Call of Duty but as a group of parents we just assumed it was normal teenage behaviour. Clearly not every child who is addicted to gaming goes on to become a compulsive gambler but unfortunately for our family this was the case.
We have spoken to other parents of disordered gamblers and in the majority of cases they have been through very similar experiences to us. What started with a few pounds spent online to buy virtual credits turned in to an obsession resulting in excessive amounts of money being spent (without permission) on credit cards or racking up huge bills on mobile phones.
Whilst these were the obvious warning signs there were other indicators such as a complete change of attitude to school; being untidy and becoming moody, aggressive and argumentative. Again many would say these may just be normal teenage traits but on top of this there were the more subtle clues such as compulsive eating and obsessive behaviour and mild signs of OCD.
Our son loved both playing and watching football. He used to watch hours and hours on TV and online and was very knowledgeable about both the players and teams. I myself enjoyed the occasional flutter on a Saturday so when our son started to show a similar interest I did not see this as a massive issue at the time. I was able to control my gambling and just saw it as a bit of fun and assumed it would be the same for him.
Unfortunately, that’s where the similarities ended as his addiction quickly escalated from a few football bets to online gambling and without realising it he soon became addicted. His desire to gamble outweighed his finances and once he had exhausted his own money he adopted more extreme measures to feed his ever-growing ‘habit’ and started borrowing money. The more he borrowed the more he lost and ultimately the more he owed and the rest they say is history.
Our son is 21 now and has not gambled since February 2019 . As a family we are starting on the road to recovery. It feels like we have lost the last three years of our lives but through the support network we have started to develop we now able to look forward one day at a time.
When we look back there were lots of warnings and clues but the difficulty was obviously piecing them all together. It is often said 'hindsight is a wonderful thing' and I am sure if we would have been made aware of the potential dangers of gambling then we would have been more vigilant from the outset. As analogue parents in a digital world we are playing catch up and often children are more knowledgeable in this area.
So it is through our lived-experience that we want to try and help other families. When we first realised we had a problem we did not know who to turn to. There is a lot of advice and guidance out there but when you are feeling anxious, confused and completely overwhelmed by the devastation that gambling can do to a family it is hard to know where to start.
Hopefully, through the pages on this website we are able to bring together all the resources, and support that is out there in one accessible place.