Video game addiction 'leads to gambling'

A TASMANIAN youth mental health advocate fears that young people addicted to video games will be more likely to develop a gambling problem.

Cornerstone Youth Services chief executive Cate Sinclair, the lead agency for Headspace in Launceston and Devonport, said the increased variety and availability of gaming devices had seen a marked rise in young Tasmanians presenting with a video game addiction.

Ms Sinclair said  the link between gaming addiction and gambling problems was scarier still.

``Games reward players for certain achievements and for reaching a certain goal, with kids often given free points or credits to upgrade stuff if they log a certain number of hours,'' she said. 

``Also, games can be played online, on your phone and on consoles that are connected to people around the world.

``There's a lot of competitiveness involved, and it's that needing to win that gets out of control.''

Ms Sinclair said she raised her concerns last week with Federal Health minister Tania Plibersek during the opening of Headspace North-West in Devonport.

She cited a study completed by the University of Adelaide, which showed one in four teenagers had played a gambling-style video game, and almost 40 per cent reported a future intention to gamble with money. 

``It's a really new area, and it is terrifying,'' she said.

In January The Examiner  reported that at least 10 per cent of Tasmania's problem gamblers were youths under the age of 24.

Ms Sinclair said treatment for gaming and gambling addiction relied on breaking the pattern of behaviour.

``Instead of plonking your bag down after school and starting your gaming, we tell kids to make themselves something to eat, go for a walk around the block,'' she said.

``They can can also enforce set gaming hours to cut their gaming time down, or surrender their console and phones overnight to avoid temptation.''

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