Underage gambling — are we surprised that it happens? No, not really. What is surprising though, are the statistics surrounding the issue.
Did you know 75% of children (aged 8-16) who watch sport believe betting is a normal activity?
Or that 25% of children (aged 8-16) who watch sport can name 4 or more sports betting companies?
Not to mention, 1 in 5 adults with a gambling problem started gambling before they were 18.
Well, a lot of sports betting occurs on smartphones and tablets, which increases the risk, ease of access and ability for young people to secretively partake in gambling.
While according to experts, underage gambling does not automatically lead to problems with gambling in later life, teenagers are more susceptible to developing such addictive behaviours.
So much so, that research suggests teenagers who do gamble are 4 times more likely to develop a gambling problem in comparison to adults.
This is because teenagers:
have less impulse control and capacity to comprehend risks;
are more likely to believe they can win; and
are susceptible to manipulation by advertising.
The scariest statistic to read as a parent though, is the one released by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, which highlights up to 80 per cent of children aged 13-17 partake in gambling.
The thing about gambling is that it creates a behavioural shift in children who partake in the act. These shifts may only be small, but they can be a real indicator of something being ‘out of the norm’.
Signs you should look for include:
obsession with simulated gambling apps and games;
spending lots of time talking or thinking about gambling;
mood swings, and exhibiting stressed behaviours;
lying or being secretive;
borrowing or taking money from family and friends; and or
a significant change in your child’s school performance.
Even though, as a parent tackling the concept of underage gambling seems like a never ending process, there are steps you can take to mitigate its impact on your family.
Firstly, it is a good idea to look at gambling from the perspective of your child, so you can understand what motivates them to participate. Most likely, you’ll discover gambling for teenagers is a combination of peer pressure and the incentive of ‘looking cool’.
Secondly, take this understanding and use it to set clear rules and boundaries, which follow through with consequences. Researches in fact show teenagers perspectives of gambling are strongly influenced by the home environment among other things.
And thirdly, talk openly with your children about what gambling is and the problems that can arise from it. This will allow them to a) feel comfortable talking to you about such things and b) develop a parent-child bond built on trust, which is key to a healthy family.
You may even consider downloading the Family Insights App to help you and your child monitor how they use their digital spaces.
The Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation Resources and research on youth gambling addiction
Gambling Helpline. Support for anyone affected by gambling
Know the odds. A guide: Knowing the dangers of youth gambling addiction