TODAY The Times had a front page headline expressing alarm at the pervasiveness of gambling promotion. This follows an editorial earlier in the month warning of the human devestation caused by electronic gambling. For many years there have been media campaigns, politicians, individuals, Churches, psychiatrists, and organisations set up specifically to highlight the dangers of Fixed Odds Betting Machines found in bookmakers. Alarm is growing quickly about online gambling available to anyone with a smartphone, computer or pad.
In 2016 the Gambling Commission reported that almost half a million children gamble weekly and 9,000 of these are already problem gamblers. These figures are likely to grow. The nature of online gambling is very similar to that of the machines on bookmakers. Experts believe that the speed of play, the ease of play and other factors evoke a ‘zone;, initially pleasurable, that can lead to addiction. It is always difficult to gather data in such a rapidly growing area, and there will always be different methodologies and disputes about interpretation, but the currently agreed figures are worrying enough.
Parents have a role to play of course. Ongoing informal education and information from charities and other organisations is vital too: a particular new demography of gambling for instance is that of educated young adults which includes Higher Education students.
Schools have a role to play too. A House of Lord Committee earlier this year called for digital literacy to be the ‘fourth pillar’ of education, and few educationists would argue against that. Each school will organise digital literacy differently, some combination of specific classes and cross-curricular organisation. As well as skills development, teachers will be concerned with such activities as critical responses to digital media, risks attached to various sectors of the internet, citizen development for the digital future and so on. Education about drugs and alcohol is a basic part of Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE). Gambling needs attention too.
There are many ways this can be covered. Maths can look at probabilities and ‘The Gambler’s Fallacy’, as well as the nature of random numbers. In the UK there are examples of young people having produced drama and video around the theme of gambling. Business studies can explore the ethics of gambling industries, and the roles of business and personal responsibility. Psychology/biology/sociology can look at the various levels of understanding addiction. Media education can examine advertising, the role of digital technology in affecting behaviours, stereotypes of gambling and addiction in film, television and other media. English can introduce literature (such as Dostoevsky’s The Gambler), promote group and class discussion, expressive writing, working with newspaper reports etc. Media/Communications/English students with more advanced skills can commit to a multi-level project which examines the many complexities of modern gambling. History can out gambling in a broader context.
Our site beatthefix.com provides a basis for project work. It is a developing site and in the near future will be publishing more suggestions and some free resources.