Some Cork children turning to drug dealing to feed gaming and gambling addictions

Some Cork children turning to drug dealing to feed gaming and gambling addictions

Former Lord Mayor and youth worker, Chris O'Leary revealed he has been contacted by parents in recent months in search of advice on services to help with their children's gaming issues.

KIDS with gaming addictions are turning to drug dealing as a means to feed their habit, in a situation one youth worker said has left many parents feeling helpless.

Former Lord Mayor and youth worker, Chris O'Leary revealed he has been contacted by parents in recent months in search of advice on services to help with their children's gaming issues.

In certain instances, he said that children as young as ten are being preyed upon for drug errands with the promise of credit for gaming accessories.

One father discovered a stash of drugs in his child's room. After being confronted, the child argued that they needed to have an income too.

Mr O'Leary described new additions in the gaming world - such as loot boxes - as an induction into gambling for children. 

Loot boxes have been described as consumable virtual items allowing players to unlock special characters, equipment, or skins in exchange for money.

It comes three years after Belgium banned loot boxes, classing them as gambling. 

The move was largely supported by gamers across the board.

Mr O'Leary described how gaming addictions are tearing families apart.

"I am hearing from the parents of 10 and 12-years-olds suffering with gambling addictions related to these games. One father found drugs in his child's bedroom. 

"When he challenged the child they argued that they needed to earn money as well. 

"Families are dealing with the most horrific experiences any child could suffer at this level."

Issues start simply

Often, Mr O'Leary explained, the issues can start off quite innocuously.

"It can start off very simply. A child might get a present of a game but they have the option of purchasing virtual accessories as a way for gaming companies to gain extra income."

He added that children will sometimes become desperate to feed the habit.

"It can be damaging because they find themselves having to get money elsewhere. Drug dealers know that -to some children this is a very attractive way for them to get credit for their games. 

"People don't suspect a child to have drugs on them which means they are seen as the ideal candidate to transport them. 

"When you see a ten-year-old hanging around with a gang of 22-year-olds it sets off alarm bells at the best of times. This is just one of the reasons a young person might be preyed upon. "

Out of control

Mr O'Leary described how a pastime like gaming can spiral out of control.

"I have no problem with gaming in moderation. In some cases, it can even bring a child out of themselves by giving them the chance to do things like interact with other players. 

"However, it's when the game becomes something that you have to feed that families can find themselves in serious trouble. 

"Other children can be drawn in too because they see the person reaching a certain status within the gaming world."

He also acknowledged the effect this can have on a child's mental health.

"Their lives are being lived through these machines. They are spending as many as six nights a week playing games making them unable to function throughout the following day."

In-game purchases

In-game purchases, Mr OLeary said, can often be made without a parent's permission.

"In some cases, they have purchased these without their parent's permission. Those who aren't tech-savvy might ask their children to purchase something for them online and later find that those same credit card details were used to buy gaming accessories on an ongoing basis. 

"I am by no means blaming parents. When you are trying to be out working, finding that balance is very tough. 

"Nonetheless, there is software out there that can be used to safeguard the child and parents should be made aware of the pitfalls."

The former Lord Mayor added that the majority of children aren't fully aware of the destructive nature of addiction.

"They get the buzz and the thrills. From their perspective all the parents are trying to do is take all that away from them. 

"I'm not saying that children should have to give up gaming completely but there are games you can buy that don't have the option of so many add ons and opportunities to spend money.

"These are the things families need to be considering in the run-up to Christmas."

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