Children steal money from parents for loot boxes, study shows

Jessica Scharnagle • December 29, 2020 3:55 am

According to a report by the Gambling Health Alliance, 15% of children in the United Kingdom have taken money from their parents without premission to spend on loot boxes.

In the new research it’s also a reported that 11% of young gamers use their parents’ credit cards to make the transaction. The 15% reported by the GHA translates to nearly one in six young gamers having stolen money from their parents to buy loot boxes. The GHA urges parents to boycott buying video games that contain loot boxes, since it has long been suggested that loot boxes are a form of gambling, and could translate into a gambling addiction when the child grows older.

Loot boxes can be addictive

22% of the families that responded say that their children spent over £100 during a regular playthrough of a game. Children cited a few reasons why they purchased the loot boxes, the most prevalent being that many games use loot boxes as a “pay to win” experience. This method either makes it impossible to continue a playthrough without purchasing loot boxes, or greatly increases the rate at which a player can proceed through the game.

Another reason cited was the scarcity of valuable items. Both reasons have made loot boxes increasingly addictive to gamers. 

What are the effects of loot boxes’ addictive nature?

The GHA Chair Duncan Stephenson acknowledges that teenagers should be able to play video games and that enjoying a video game without loot boxes is a perfectly fine activity. However, Stephenson has cautioned the general public on the effects of loot boxes on young gamers’ mental and physical health.

It is no surprise that Stephenson’s findings align with recent government attempts to outlaw the practice. Loot boxes are commonly associated with signs of gambling addiction, such as begging, borrowing, or stealing money to make purchases. The mental and physical affects of this addiction are mood swings, problems sleeping, and an impacted social life, according to Stephenson. 

Are loot boxes illegal?

There was legislation proposed in the United States to ban the sale of loot boxes in video games by introducing the Protecting Children from Abusive Games Act, but there has been no movement on the bill since it was introduced. Other countries, including China and Belgium, have outlawed the practice entirely. Some countries do have limitations on how companies can sell loot boxes, but for most countries, there is little to no regulation of the practice. 


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