“I don’t want to see another generation drop, I’d rather be a comma than a full stop.”
Coldplay puts into words one of the things that matters to me most.
For 15 years, and probably more, I have been drawn to work or volunteer with charities that have young people at their heart. My attention draws to the generation that will come after me, and for whom I feel I am leaving a series of challenges and hurdles so big that I worry about the world we are leaving them.
Currently I’m working with YGAM as their Student Engagement Advisor. YGAM have recognised the impact that gaming, gambling, and digital technology can have on the lives of young people and are doing something about it. Being a girl of action and a girl that is concerned about these same things, it is a good match.
Today YGAM launches the first ever study into the attitudes and experiences of students in higher education to gaming and gambling. I had the privilege of leading this project and collaborating with Red Brick Research to undertake the research. When we started, there was a part of me that quietly hoped the research would not find an issue (that may have been a difficult conversation with the Board and CEO). It would have been amazing to be able to say: ‘When students go to uni they have built the skills and resilience to cope with its pressures, so they don’t face the risk of harm from gaming or gambling and social media.’ Instinctively I knew that wouldn’t be the case but as there really hadn’t been any depth of study before in the HE student world, this optimistic lass couldn’t help but hope.
So, what have I learnt through this new insight around the themes of gaming, gambling, and university student life?
87% of students say the last thing they do before they sleep is look at their digital device
Not the greatest surprise but sets a context for those of us who did not grow up in this digital world. ‘It’s just life’, as my nephew tells me.
Students play digital games for entertainment and gain benefits including stress reduction, challenge and social interactions
For students, gaming is a normal, positive part of life and helps them switch off from the pressures they face. Whether I agree or not, the insight was about understanding student attitudes and experiences and there are definitely benefits. However…
48% of students felt gaming has got in the way of their academic performance
When students are caught up in gaming and get beyond the stress-relief benefit, the negative impact has real implications. Other research shows that getting a good degree matters to students and is a far stronger focus when courses cost £9,000 a year. Knowing academic performance is important, regular gaming must be a concern as poor performance will have other consequences on wellbeing, career outcomes, and the university experience.
For those who game every day, one fifth have a negative sense of belonging at university
Whether it’s gaming that keeps them away from forming friendships or the challenge that they don’t feel they belong that means they game a lot, there is an issue to be understood and addressed here.
47% of students have gambled in the last 12 months
It may be less prevalent than gaming but that’s still a lot of students and then there is the really scary statistic:
Over a quarter of a million students are at some risk from gambling
The research indicates that 16% of students can be identified as moderate risk or problem gamblers. Using my maths degree for a moment – that is around 264,000 students in the UK at some risk from gambling with 88,000 already defined as problem gamblers. For me this is the latest hidden problem students are facing.
Other factors behind why students game or gamble regularly and the impact on their university experience also emerge.
56% of moderate risk/problem gamblers have seriously considered dropping out of university
48% of students say gaming reduces their stress
59% of students who gamble are always worrying about their financial situation
2 in 3 students keep their problems to themselves
Of course, this is only the tip of the iceberg.
To view the full report visit www.ygam-research.org