How Do Children and Teens Gamble?

In a world where the avenues for entertainment are expanding, it’s no wonder that parents are becoming increasingly concerned about their children’s activities, especially when those activities potentially involve gambling. The gambling landscape has evolved significantly, moving beyond traditional casinos to include the digital realm, where it’s more accessible to younger audiences than many might realize. This shift makes it very important for parents and guardians to be vigilant and informed about how children and teens might be exposed to gambling activities and what can be done to prevent engagement.

The reality is that gambling isn’t confined to adults in neon-lit venues anymore. For children and teens, gambling can start innocuously through video games featuring loot boxes or apps that simulate casino games, often without real money changing hands at first. Social media platforms and websites also host betting games or links to gambling sites, subtly blurring the lines for young users between gaming for fun and engaging in gambling behaviors.

So what can you do as a parent? And will things become even more difficult? We’ll break everything down below.

Is Gambling in School Illegal?

While laws vary by location, gambling in schools is generally prohibited. Despite this, informal betting among friends on school premises about sports events, games, or even grades can occur. These activities might seem harmless but can serve as a gateway to more severe gambling behaviors, underscoring the need for awareness and conversations about gambling from an early age.

So, Where Do Children and Teens Get Access to Gambling?

Access can come from multiple sources – online platforms, acquaintances, or even family members who may unknowingly encourage the behavior by engaging in betting activities in front of children. The internet, with its many unregulated corners, offers anonymous participation in gambling activities, making it a significant concern for parents trying to monitor their children’s online behavior.

Does Gambling Seem Fun to Children and Teens?

For many young people, the allure of gambling comes from its presentation as a thrilling activity, promising not just entertainment but the chance for rewards. Games and apps designed with flashy graphics, exciting sounds, and the potential for winning virtual tokens or items make gambling seem like just another aspect of the digital playground. This perception of fun, combined with the thrill of risk and reward, can be particularly enticing to children and teens, who may not fully grasp the consequences of their actions.

Preventing Gambling in Pre-Teens and Teenagers

Prevention starts with open conversations about the nature of gambling and its potential impacts. Educating children and teens on the value of money and the importance of making wise choices can lay a strong foundation. Monitoring and setting boundaries on internet use, understanding who they are spending time with, and being involved in their interests help keep them engaged in other activities and avoid the draw of gambling.

Recognizing the Problems Helps Combat Pre-Teen and Teenage Gambling

Awareness of the signs that a child might be engaging in gambling activities is the best way for parents to intervene. Parents often find that the biggest way kids get away with gambling is a lack of intervention and understanding of the issue. By staying alert to these signs and maintaining open lines of communication, parents can play a pivotal role in guiding their children away from these illegal behaviors. Keep in mind the following signs:

Rapid Changes in the Money Your Child Has

Sudden unexplained increases or decreases in money can indicate gambling winnings or losses. It’s important to understand where their money is coming from or going.

Sleep Pattern Changes

Staying up later than usual or displaying signs of fatigue could suggest time spent gambling online instead of sleeping.

A Changing Focus on Sports Odds and Not the Sport Itself

If conversations about sports shift from the game to betting odds, it could be a sign of emerging gambling interests.

Secrecy or Hesitancy to Speak About Gambling

A reluctance to talk about their online activities or evasive answers about their hobbies might suggest that your child is exploring gambling sites or apps.

Has Your Child or Teenager Been Gambling? 800-GAMBLER Can Help

Finding out a child or teenager has been exposed to gambling activities can evoke many emotions in parents, from concern to distress. It’s important to approach the situation with empathy, focusing on understanding and support rather than punitive measures. At 800-GAMBLER, we stand ready to assist families faced with these challenges. We believe in empowerment through information and resources, including our webinars, podcasts, research, and more. Connect with us for support at our 24/7 confidential helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER, for more information on problem gambling and how it impacts children, teens, and people of all ages.


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