Gambling harm prevention resources should be needs-led

Written by: Dr Christina Dineen, Project Development Officer (Scottish Gambling Education Hub), Fast Forward

Published: 14/01/2022

Christina shares the importance of considering the needs of children, young people and families when developing gambling education resources

Whether we like it or not, we know that children and young people in the UK are exposed to gambling and gambling ads regularly, both in person and online. Young people are not only particularly vulnerable to experiencing harm from their own gambling, but they are also vulnerable to experiencing harm because of a parent or carer’s gambling. Unfortunately, less than half of young people would be confident in knowing where to signpost a friend for support around disordered gambling.[1]

In research conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health (this link will take you away from our website), young people said they wanted more information about gambling to be available to them. Specifically, they wanted:

  • More gambling education in schools, particularly around health risks and support services available
  • Teachers, parents, and carers to be given more information around gambling and new technologies to better support their young people

At the Scottish Gambling Education Hub, we redeveloped our Gambling Education Toolkit (this link will take you away from our website) with these messages from young people in mind.

The toolkit is a resource for anyone who works with children, young people, or families. It provides both current research around gambling and gambling harms in the UK, as well as practical, straightforward guidance on how to deliver education and harm prevention inputs for young people and families. It was developed in consultation with public health experts, as well as people with lived experience, whose input on how to deliver educational activities sensitively was particularly important.

The toolkit has been reworked from the ground up, to emphasise the importance of taking a public health approach to gambling, and to reflect what we now know about gambling harms. For example, gambling harms don’t just affect the individual gambler – they can affect friends and family, as well as our wider community and society. Similarly, gambling harms don’t just affect people who lose a lot of money – even people who gamble small sums of money are more likely to experience a range of negative life outcomes, including financial hardship and unemployment.

We’ve also heard time and again from the practitioners and young people we work with that the connections between gaming and gambling are an increasing concern. Teachers, youth workers, parents, and carers can all feel ‘out of touch’ with new technologies that young people access regularly, whereas young people can struggle to access those technologies safely. For example, one third (31%) of young gamers in the UK struggle to keep track of how much money they spend on loot boxes, and a similar proportion (33%) say they don’t feel in control of their loot box spending.[2] We’ve therefore included a chapter in the toolkit that’s dedicated to explaining the connections between gaming and gambling, and how practitioners can support the young people and families they work with around these issues.

In developing the toolkit, it was particularly important to us to make the resource as accessible and engaging as possible, given the level of detail it contains and the size of the document. With the help of the skillful designers at Designers on the Run we were able to incorporate infographics and visuals to guide readers through the content. We’ve also included sample session plans and activities to support anyone who works with young people or families to develop and deliver their own inputs.

The toolkit is part of our wider programme of gambling education and harm prevention, providing free training for professionals as well as direct inputs for young people and families. Similarly, education and early intervention approaches are only one part of a broader public health approach to addressing gambling harm. There is much more work to be done to protect young people and families in Scotland from experiencing gambling harm. However, listening to their needs puts us in a better position to play our part.


[1] Royal Society for Public Health (2019), Skins in the Game – A high-stakes relationship between gambling and young people’s health and wellbeing? Available at: https://www.rsph.org.uk/static/uploaded/be3b9ba8-ea4d-403c-a1cee2ec75dcefe7.pdf

[2] Gambling Health Alliance (2019), WHAT IS THE FINANCIAL IMPACT OF LOOT BOXES ON CHILDREN AND YOUNG PEOPLE? Available at: https://www.rsph.org.uk/static/1997fb77-2b38-4b7f-8725b21e158d009a/Gambling-short-paperv4.pdf

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