A recent study funded by the Australian Research Council has uncovered alarming insights into how children as young as 12 perceive celebrity endorsements of gambling. The Guardian reported about this research conducted by Deakin, Wollongong, and Curtin universities, children expressed beliefs that celebrities and influencers paid to promote gambling make the activity appear safe, normal, attractive, and fun, thus influencing their peers to consider gambling.
The study, published in the journal Health Promotion International, involved interviews with 64 children from New South Wales and Victoria. Many of these children voiced concerns about the impact of influencers on social media platforms, noting that they have young and impressionable audiences.
Participants shared sentiments indicating that seeing their favourite YouTubers, Instagrammers, TikTokers, or celebrities engage in gambling activities made them feel compelled to try it themselves. Some expressed how these endorsements made gambling seem cool or desirable, while others highlighted the deceptive nature of the ads, which often portrayed gambling as a pathway to an improved lifestyle or appearance.
Criticism was also directed at celebrities who partner with gambling companies, with children expressing disappointment at their prioritization of earnings over the well-being of young viewers. They called for stricter advertising regulations to prevent the normalization of gambling among their peers and protect them from potential harm.
Prof Samantha Thomas, one of the study authors from Deakin University, emphasized the need for government action in response to the concerns raised by children. She noted the scepticism among young people regarding government intervention due to the perceived political influence of the gambling industry. Hannah Pitt, another academic from Deakin University involved in the study, highlighted the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements in shaping the perceptions of a younger audience. Pitt underscored how children believed that such endorsements often portrayed gambling in a positive light while neglecting to depict its true harms.
The findings of this study underscore the urgent need for regulatory measures to address the influence of celebrity endorsements on children’s attitudes towards gambling. With young people increasingly exposed to such endorsements on social media platforms, proactive steps must be taken to protect them from the normalization and glamorization of gambling, ensuring their well-being and safeguarding them from potential harm.