The Internet is a wide-open virtual world whereupon kids can make their way onto gambling sites just as easily as they would on Barney’s website. It goes without saying that online gambling sites are not made for minors as gambling usually involves money — whether it is winning or losing it. It is therefore your responsibility to make sure that kids will not gain access to these kinds of websites.
Before we get to that, however, let us first define what online gambling is.
What is Online Gambling?
Online gambling is a generic term that is used for any type of gambling that is done over the Internet. On the Internet, there are lots of games that are similar to gambling. While this type of game is legal, it is definitely not made for minors. Video game sites differ a lot from online gambling sites because gambling usually involves money winning or losing it. The Internet is very attractive to youngsters. Like a shiny bait that is tantalizing fish, kids use the Internet more than the adults do and they frequently access online gaming sites and play online games, investing their parents' money through their parents' credit cards – usually without their parents' knowledge or permission – to start an online gaming account.
The following are the most common categories of online gambling:
- Online poker
- Online casinos
- Online sports betting
- Online bingo
- Online lotteries
Staggering Statistics Involving Underage Gambling
Research conducted among seventh- to 12th-graders indicated that students who gamble are two to three times more likely to consume alcohol, take drugs or become violent. Other studies have also indicated that suicide attempts among pathological gamblers are a lot higher than for all other addictions.
And according to the Oregon State Department of Human Services, one in ten teens is at risk for developing a gambling problem. And one in every 25 is a problem gambler.
An Oregon State Lottery study also discovered that 19% of Oregon youths had gambled in a casino, with 12% having done so in the past year. The study identified four percent of the state’s adolescents — about 13,000 — as problem gamblers. Another 11% showed signs of being compulsive gamblers.
In addition, research also indicates that 60-90% of youth engage in gambling and that youth problem gambling rates are 2-4 times higher than those of adults.
Surveys of teens tell us drugs, alcohol, and gambling often travel together, yet many parents see gambling as a relatively safe pastime and encourage it as an alternative activity.
These figures and so much more clearly show that gambling is not an innocent entertainment platform for children. Rather, it's a gateway to addiction. As a parent, it is then your responsibility to ensure that your child would never gain access to this type of online gambling websites.
Why Gambling Appeals to the Younger Generation
Gambling and other similar activities have become so prevalent in today’s world that the young ones have come to accept it as a normal part of daily life. And gambling advertisements actively send the message that gambling is fun, exciting and a quick and easy way to get rich.
Teenagers might believe that gambling is a great social activity because online gambling activities make use of chat and messaging to encourage playing with friends, sharing gambling stories and getting others to place bets.
Unbeknownst to many especially the young ones, online gambling is often geared so that players win a lot in “practice mode.” Teenagers might believe that this winning streak would keep on going when they play with real money. Most problem gamblers had what they thought was a significant “win” early in their gambling history.
If you still are not aware, gambling is based on chance and nothing more. However, some game developers have designed their video games and apps to give the appearance that it involves skill. This might look like a lot of fun to teenagers and has even led some young players to think gambling also involves proficiency with their motor skills when in reality, it really is not. This could give them unrealistic or false beliefs about gambling and the odds of winning.
How to Prevent Teenage Gambling Problems
1) Clearly explain what gambling is and how it works
Children in the upper years of primary school are usually ready to learn about gambling, including the low chances of winning in the long term. It can help to clearly explain the odds of winning in a way that your child can easily grasp it. To do this, you could compare the chances of winning to other chances. For example, you could say, “Your chance of winning the lottery is one in 15 million. Your chance of being hit by lightning in your lifetime is one in 300 000.”
You could also state that gambling firms are set up so they always make more money than they pay out to gamblers. If they didn’t make money, they wouldn’t be able to stay in business.
2) Be on the lookout for telltale signs of gambling
Whenever teenagers or young kids have difficulty coping with issues at school, at home or even in their personal lives, they try to find an escape. More often than not, they find that in online gambling. By being on the lookout for social, educational or mental health concerns, you might be able to head off unhealthy activities like gambling.
At the same time, you can inspire more positive extracurricular activities. This actually is a much better way for your child to handle boredom or stress. They can help her feel good about herself, have fun and let off steam.
3) Think about family attitudes and activities
Your family’s attitude to gambling can really impact your child. The less your child is exposed to gambling, the less likely he is to develop a problem. However, if parents gamble on a consistent basis, children might see gambling as mere normal behavior and want to imitate what they see their parents doing – for example, playing poker machines, using scratchy cards, or betting on races and sport. Parents who gamble frequently might also send messages to their children about gambling being a way to make money or have fun.
Additionally, parents often use gambling language to encourage their children – for example, “I bet you can’t swim to the other side of the pool. If you do, I’ll buy you an ice-cream.” There’s a fine line between healthy and unhealthy messages about gambling. It’s worth seriously thinking about how often you use this kind of language.
If you do choose to gamble, you can help your child avoid problems by making sure she knows how gambling activities, like lottery and bingo, work.
4) Talk about making good media choices
A great way to help your child make good, sound decisions about online gambling and gaming is by discussing quality media choices. For example, you could sit down and talk with your child about video games with gambling themes and content and why you would want him or her to stay away from these offerings.
And if you encourage your child to have a balanced approach to screen use, he or she would have plenty of nourishing ways to relieve boredom and escape stress. This just might result in online gambling and gaming becoming less appealing to him or her.
And if you and your child agree on family screen and internet use rules together, it can help your child comprehend and accept your family’s rules. This might include restrictions on his access to online gambling activities and the usage of your credit card in games.
It’s all about making sure children balance screen time with other activities and use quality digital media. Our healthy screen time checklist answers your questions about screen time and digital media choices for children and teenagers of different ages.
How to Spot Teenage Gambling Problems
It can be difficult to tell when children are going through gambling problems because they don’t always run into the financial challenges that adult problem gamblers usually experience. However, there are still some warning signs that your child might have a problem with gambling and they can include the following:
- Sudden changes in the amount of money your child has, your child is short of money, or your child borrowing or taking money from family and friends
- Changes in sleep patterns, tiredness, low energy levels, changes in mood, or irritability when away from gambling activities
- Failing marks at school
- Withdrawal from friends, social activities and events
- Positive attitudes towards gambling, or a preoccupation with video arcades, internet gambling sites, sports results or TV poker, or simulated gambling apps or games
- Focuses more on sports odds instead of the sport itself
- Secrecy about gambling, or denial that there’s a problem.
What are the Risk Factors for Developing Gambling Problems?
There are things that raise the risk that children or teenagers would develop gambling problems in childhood, adolescence, or later in life.
1) Gambling activities and attitude
Your child might be at greater risk of developing a gambling problem if he or she:
- Has access to gambling at school, at friends’ houses or on the internet
- Starts gambling at a young age and does a lot of gambling or has a big win early in life
- Has a positive attitude towards gambling – for example, he thinks that winning a big lottery jackpot is common, or that his peers will think he’s cool if he gambles.
Your child might be at greater risk of developing a gambling problem if he or she:
- Smokes, drinks or uses other drugs
- Is involved in other risk-taking behavior like fights, vandalism, shoplifting or truancy from school
- Has problems at school
- Has a parent with a gambling-related problem.
Your child might be at greater risk of a gambling problem if he or she:
- Has an excitable, impulsive and sensation-seeking personality
- Is experiencing distress, depression or anxiety
- Tends to try to ignore problems or distract himself from them instead of dealing with them
- Is experiencing family conflict, or has a sibling who’s taking lots of risks.
Tips for Parents Preventing Kids from Online Gambling
Here are some useful tips for parents on how to prevent children from online gambling:
1) Before you even allow your child to play online, you have to establish clear rules on which sites are allowed and which are prohibited. This would considerably limit where your child would play as well as the games that they would be playing. Then, you should impose hard sanctions for any violations so that your child would get the idea that you are not joking.
2) You have to remind your kids that it is illegal for minors such as them to engage in gambling online. You can also provide your kids with understandable information regarding the nature of online gambling and how it works. Explain to them that these are businesses that are operated online and that these sites take in more money than they actually pay out so there's no point in gambling as you will have very fewer chances of winning the prize pot.
3) Monitor your credit card and always make sure that your child never uses your credit card without your knowledge or permission. In order to participate in gambling sites, credit cards are often required and if left unmonitored, your kids can rack up massive debts online and ruin your credit rating. It's just like being a victim of identity theft only this time, your child was the one who used your credit card without your authorization.
4) You have to actively participate in your child's gaming experience. This is not something that your child would obviously want you to do, especially when they are older and they have friends over your place to play. However, playing with your kids can help you bond with your child as you spend quality time together, doing something that your child really enjoys. While having fun, you can monitor your child's activity online with some sort of parental control software so you would never have to worry about them sneaking onto gambling sites when you are not around.