In the 1990s, the introduction of online gambling revolutionized how people gambled. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection could fire up their web browser and start betting on sports or playing casino games. Online gambling has moved on considerably since then. Today, the global online gambling industry
is valued at US$46 billion and is estimated to more than double in size to US$94 billion by 2024.
As smartphones now provide us with 24/7 access to the internet, you don't even need to be on your PC to gamble online. This instant, widespread access to the gambling world now means everyone—including children—can become hooked faster and easier than before. And that's where the problem lies.
The Rise of Underage Online Gambling
In most countries, it's illegal for anyone below the age of 18 to engage in any form of gambling activity. Although a few teens may manage to sneak into some brick-and-mortar casinos, most of these establishments are great at stopping kids at the door.
Online gambling is, however, a whole new ball game—there's very little that can stop children from gambling online. In general, if they can get an adult's login details or a credit card, they can easily register at an online casino or sportsbook.
Recent statistics paint a somber picture, with a whopping 20% of college teens being estimated to play poker online at least once every month. A 2010 report by the Annenberg Public Policy Center
found that underage gambling by college-age boys grew from 4.4% in 2008 to 16% in 2010. In Britain, the UK Gambling Commission revealed that close to half a million children between the ages of 11 and 16 bet regularly. The number of those considered as being addicted is expected to rise within two years.
While these statistics are nothing short of shocking, not all the blame can be placed on the iGaming's industry's lap. Gambling websites play a key role in the growth of addiction, but video games and smartphone apps that contain loot boxes are also a dangerous trend. That's especially true when they appear in games that most parents assume are child-friendly.
To be fair, sports-betting sites and online casinos do have regulations and safeguards to prevent underage gambling. Every player who gambles using real money has to create an account and verify their ID and banking details. Children, however, can still find ways to register using older people's details. In that regard, the gambling industry can only do so much—the rest is up to parents and the community.
Why Youth Gamble
Today's children are living in a society where gambling is not only a socially acceptable activity, but a highly glorified one. With casinos heavily advertising on billboards, online, on TV, and radio, the industry is widely visible.
Charismatic protagonists in movies portray are sometimes gamblers who make winning millions on a single spin of the roulette wheel look easy. Poker tournaments with dramatic camera angles and expert commentary are also hot on reality TV.
Given such glamor and visibility, it's not surprising that children may be drawn to the instant gratification of online gambling. The thrill of unpredictable outcomes and hope of a quick buck can be too much for their young minds to wrap around.
Other teens gamble to relieve boredom and depression, or due to peer pressure. That's particularly true on college campuses where student sometimes play poker at local bars and dorms.
Underage Gambling and the Role of Parents
Mainstream media often puts rampant access to violent content, pornography, and profanity under the spotlight. Underage gambling, on the other hand, tends to be overlooked. Parents who provide their children with unrestricted internet may also be contributing to the problem of underage gambling.
While it's good to trust that our children will make smart choices and behave responsibly, it's only prudent to take vital steps to protect them. If not, we risk letting them develop harmful habits that may haunt them for the rest of their lives. People who start gambling as children are 300% more likely to develop addiction problems
What can you do to Stop Your Child Gambling Online?
The risk of your child starting to gamble may not go away anytime soon, but what can you do to keep them safe? Also, what are your options if you're concerned your child may be developing a gambling problem?
The first port of call is, of course, talking to them about the dangers of online gambling in an open and frank way. Make sure they understand that it's illegal for them to gamble.
If you gamble online using a shared home PC, ensure that you don't do it when your children can see you. Children and teens can pick up on your emotions and try to emulate you when you're not around. Also ensure that you keep your login details safe and secure.
By far, the most effective way to stop children from gambling online is installing filtering software on their devices. These software block virtually all gambling and pornographic content. You can also manually add websites or hot keywords that you'd like to block your children from accessing. As such, you can shield them from profanity and racist content as well.
You can also try to reduce your child's alone internet time. You can place a family PC in the living room and organize more family internet activities.
If you don't monitor your credit card activity closely, your child could use it to register at online gambling sites without you even realizing it.
Lastly, always try to maintain an open and honest line of communication with your child. If your child can talk to you about anything, they're more likely to approach you for help and clarity on gambling-related issues.
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