Tuesday, May 17, 2005
SirWiffleBallBat brought up an interesting topic in a recent post of his, regarding poker and kids. Could online poker suffer the "Joe Camel" syndrome? You know... the cute camel that represents Camel cigarettes, and how the mass public accused Camel of marketing to children. Look at Full Tilt Poker - how many boys see the growling shark or the babbling babboon avatars and want to be them? How many girls (or boys...) would love to be the nurse? How many 13 year old "soon to be men" would love to be that Caribbean looking busty bronze beauty in the bikini (or would just love to stare at her while playing)?
Here's what I posted in SirF's comments:
I've never gotten the impression that FTP was gunning for children - all of their TV ads are aimed at poker players, to "learn from the pro's." Just because they have non-human avatars... all of the poker sites use cartoons to represent players. But, I'm sure there are kids playing, simply because kids are computer savvy, and all of the sites offer "free" play. I've even read in the paper about parents allowing their kids to use their credit cards to play online, with a weekly "allowance." Now, THAT, I think, is crossing the line. I'm all for the pro's of teaching kids poker skills (money management, math and statistics, the art of human observation), but online poker - in the absence of observable feedback from your opponents (aside from pure pattern recognition) - is much more like gambling than live poker. I don't think I'd encourage my kids to play online poker at all... until they're out from under my roof!! LOL
While it's true that the cute avatars on FTP could be "appealing" to kids, I don't think that FTP does anything to promote those avatars. You don't even see the avatars unless you download the software and run it. I couldn't even find pictures of the avatars anywhere on their web site. If an underage child is able to download, run, and play online poker without the parents finding out, there's something wrong there - and it's not the kid.
What about a kid that happens to see his or her parent playing poker online? Well - then it's time for kid and parent to have a sit-down chat about online poker. Like SirF says - "This is not a game!" I'd handle it the same way I'd handle the topic of drinking beer. Sure, mommy likes to drink beer, but it's a grown up thing and when you're a grown up, you can decide if you want to drink beer. Explain its dangers and why it is not made for little boys and little girls...
I can't remember which blogger wrote about this, but a few months back, I remember someone posting about how they were teaching their kids poker, and how it was actually a family activity. Whoever wrote the story was shocked beyond believe the first time he saw his son or daughter check-raise mommy. I found that to be not only absolutely hysterical, but a really good way to teach kids some concepts that are rather difficult to grasp, but definitely more tangible when explained through poker. Plus, you can never get kids to love math at too young an age. A frightening majority of kids today can't even add in their heads - something that makes me ill to imagine them running the world and caring for me in my old age.
It's not poker itself that is potentially hazardous to children - but online poker, in my humble opinion, could be. It's just so easy to lose mass quantities of cash very quickly. Re-loading chips is a matter of clicking a button. How many of you have never lost more than you should have in a night, because you just couldn't log off and walk away? Sure, the same risks apply in a casino, BUT in a casino, you've got someone at the door making sure that each entrant is 21 years old. Online, there's no such filter aside from the little checkbox you click upon registering to swear on your life that you're old enough to play. Kids generally don't have the discipline or concept of the value of money to walk away when losing, and with all of the cartoon avatars, it really does appear to be just a game. I don't think I would ever encourage my kids to play poker online - not until they're of legal gambling age. There are just too many "adult" emotions that come into play when bad luck strikes that I don't think a 15 year old could have a grasp of.
Then again, I don't have kids yet, so I may be entirely too idealistic here. Food for thought. Thanks for the inspiration, SirF!