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For most people, playing mobile games through device apps can be a simple way to have fun. For others, however, this activity can quickly turn into a problem. Most mobile games are programmed with reward systems similar to slot machines. Players can quickly find themselves spending lots of time and money inside the game.

“Often times we think of gambling as being about winning money or a reward,” says Keellia Guevara, Heartland Family Service Problem Gambling Prevention Specialist. “When actually, research shows that your brain releases the most dopamine, which is the feel-good chemical, when you are expecting to win and not when you actually receive an award. So with mobile games, such as Candy Crush or Game of War, you are in the same state of expectation as you are when you are playing casino games or betting on sports even though you are not winning a tangible prize.”

Because of this fairly new phenomenon, Heartland Family Service is encouraging families to have conversations about healthy mobile game activity as part of Problem Gambling Awareness Month in March. Heartland Family Service also will be offering two presentations of “The Power of the Screen” on March 22 and March 30. See details below.

If you are concerned about the mobile habits of someone you love, here are some tips on starting the conversation:

  • Be clear and non-judgmental: I’ve been noticing changes in your behavior, and I’m worried about you.
  • Be positive: Your involvement in our family is usually so good and we miss you.
  • Explain how the problem affects you: The amount of time you are playing mobile games is hurting our family.
  • Use everyday observations: When you get home, you are on your phone and too distracted to spend time with us.
  • Be clear about your position: We all depend on each other. We need to be able to count on you.
  • Be prepared for denial or a hostile reaction: It’s difficult for me to bring it up, but I am concerned about you.

You are not alone, and help is available. Anyone who is concerned about their own or a loved one’s mobile game activity can call the Heartland Family Service confidential problem gambling helpline at (866) 322-1407. Staff is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to help and refer you to services in your area.

For more information, contact Keellia Guevara at (712) 325-5617 or Tiffani Pinkerton at (712) 325-5629.

EVENT INFORMATION

Event: “The Power of the Screen” presentation by Heartland Family Service

Cost: Free, but registration is required.

When: 7 p.m., March 22, Council Bluffs Public Library; noon, March 30, MICAH House (1415 Ave. J, Council Bluffs)

Registration: Contact Tiffani Pinkerton at TPinkerton@HeartlandFamilyService.org or (712) 325-5629.

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