A recent study, funded by the Australian Research Council, has revealed the concerns of children as young as 12 regarding the impact of celebrity endorsements on promoting gambling as safe, attractive, and fun. Researchers from Deakin, Wollongong, and Curtin universities found that influencers, including celebrities like Shaquille O’Neal, were believed to make gambling more appealing to young audiences. The study included interviews with 64 children from New South Wales and Victoria, who expressed the view that influencers on social media, particularly on platforms like YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok, had a significant impact on their peers.

The participating children were aware of the difference between advertisements and reality but expressed concern regarding the effects of gambling endorsements on their peers. Many youths believed that some ads created the impression that gambling could lead to an improved lifestyle or appearance, potentially causing some individuals to try mimicking them. Some younger participants admitted that their favorite celebrities could influence their decisions, with one 12-year-old boy stating that if their favorite idol were gambling, it would be a compelling enough reason to try.

In light of these findings, the researchers emphasized the importance of implementing comprehensive advertising restrictions to protect young people from the potential harms associated with gambling. The study’s authors urged the federal government to consider the concerns raised by the children and take them seriously. Dr. Hannah Pitt, one of the study authors from Deakin University, emphasized the effectiveness of celebrity endorsements among younger audiences and the need to address the portrayal of gambling in a more balanced manner, showing both positives and potential harms. However, implementing such measures requires strong political will, which Australia often finds lacking.

Professor Samantha Thomas, another study author, highlighted the skepticism among young people regarding government action due to the perceived political influence of the gambling industry, casting further doubt that Australia can push through with its much-needed reforms. These observations match the rising gambling addiction rates in the country, further highlighting this growing issue. The study’s results underscore the need for strict advertising regulations to protect the next generation from potential gambling harm.

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