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How to keep teens safe from gambling addiction

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With gambling now an online and mobile service, making sure that under-aged users aren’t getting into trouble is crucial. Here Shaun Smith takes a look at how to keep teens safe

Back in the day, gambling required going outside the confines of your own home. Still, teenage problem gambling was a real issue back then. Little did we know how worse it was about to become. Today, for teenagers, gambling is available on every screen, and even in places parents don’t even know exist.

Parents put the onus on the various gambling operators to perform their due diligence and reject any underaged teenager frrom placing bets or buying scratch cards. And this is partially working, when the teens are honest about their identity. You would be surprised at how often teenagers use somebody’s older brother’s identity just to pass these checks, and peacefully wager on sports or esports.

Where Do Teens Gamble Nowadays?

Over the last few years, the opportunities to wager some pocket money behind a screen have multiplied. Teens no longer need to visit their favorite land-based bookmaker to bet a few dollars on their favorite team.

The most obvious choice for teens is to wager on online betting platforms which work both on their computer, but also on their mobile devices. If your state does not allow online sports betting, lookout for your child using what is called a VPN (virtual private network) which allows them to appear to be located abroad, in a jurisdiction allowed sports betting. Even more worrying, there are now crypto casinos online which use Bitcoin as currency, making the transactions untraceable and anonymous.

Many kids also get drawn to some Facebook and mobile games. These initially appear very innocent and candid. They are in fact designed to capture the player’s attention through sound and visual effects. “Special credits” are introduced, alongside “hints” and other “bonuses” that can be purchased in order to progress further a lot faster than if you didn’t pay a dime. Such games don’t target kids specifically and many adults enjoy them, but a teenager may struggle with resisting the appeal of faster progress in exchange of a little bit of money.

A new way gambling has invaded your teenager’s world is with esports gambling. Esports is competitive video gaming. Instead of playing basketballs, two teams of highly-skilled players confront each other at a specific video game. And on the side lines, many gamers and fanciers can bet on the winner and other exotic wagers. You guessed it, just like in football, soccer, and regular sports. With esports gambling, punters can bet real money, cryptocurrencies, or even trade skins and items (these are alternate appearances of some kind for either a weapon, or a character). As mentioned by betandbeat.com, esports betting revenue has quickly grown to $14bn in 2020. It is, without a doubt, a massive business that is almost doubling every few years.

Why Do Old Reflexes Don’t Work As Well?

Even a decade or two ago, it was somewhat easier to control where teenagers could bet their pocket money, and most likely lose it. Because of the omnipresence of screens, it is virtually impossible to constantly monitor a teen’s digital activities. And even if you tried, they could bypass that with a VPN software they understand a lot better than you and I.

Gambling has grown as an umbrella term and not everyone agrees on what should be labeled as gambling and what shouldn’t. Some legal grey areas are also making it difficult to prevent teens from gambling as some practices, like loot boxes, are not considered gambling by everybody, and teenagers can therefore pay in all impunity.

Whilst you may be pro or against cryptocurrencies, they exist and they represent an avenue for gamblers to wager online. The issues are, these operators are rarely licensed and because cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ethereum are anonymous, therefore it’s quite easy for underaged gamblers to mask their identity.

Then, not every family or household is equal in the face of problem gambling. Other considerations, not all under your control, will affect how you and your family members will react to the enticing marketing of gambling sites and apps. A study led by JW Welte and al., showed that socioeconomic status and neighborhood disadvantage play an important role in the affinity an individual may have towards at-risk activities like gambling.

These findings were further supported by Goran’s study that showed that “men reported significantly higher gambling consequences”, and “students with lower school achievements reported significantly higher psychological consequences of gambling”. Overall, this study concluded that the results of their work led them to believe that there was “an important relation between adolescent gambling behaviour and very serious psychological, social and financial consequences”.

Are There Ways To Prevent Gambling Addiction In Teenagers?

Using hard power as a parent is bound to fail in preventing problem gambling in teenagers. Preventing through forbidding will generally challenge the teenager to come up with a way around it. And let’s face it, parents are rarely more au fait than teenagers when it comes to tech.

Instead, parents should go ahead and get to know how teenagers gamble. Perhaps doing it together so to show them how it should be done. Basically preparing them for the future. Explain to them how the house, or operator, always has the edge so would they play a game they will definitely lose more often than they will win?

By using soft power and emotional intelligence, you will at least open up dialogue. And this is the first step towards prevention considering this topic is general taboo. But remember that some activities they engage in (e.g., loot boxes, skin betting, item trading) may not be seen as gambling in their eyes. It is your task to open up their eyes to the many subterfuges and loopholes used by companies.

Tell-Tale Signs of Problem Gambling in a Teenagers

Teenagers are experts at hiding events and behaviors they know will get them into parental trouble. But because gambling is tied to money, it gives you plenty of opportunities to spot the onset of problem gambling, or even of gambling addiction.

Generally-speaking, you want to monitor and notice changes in your teen’s relationship with money, sports, and gaming:

  • Requesting for increasingly more pocket money.
  • Asking mum and dad separately to (smartly) obtain more.
  • Sudden fascination with arcades, sports betting, poker, and similar activities.
  • More time spent on video games and gaming communities.
  • Spending time on betting sites and odds comparators.
  • Exaggerated reactions to sports results (may mean they just won or lost money).

Additionally, keep an eye out on other signs commonly found in most addictive behaviors and personalities. These include social withdrawal and time being spent indoors more than outdoors, especially if it never used to be like that. If a teenager has an obsessive personality and you know has another addiction (e.g., cigarette, drugs, alcohol), you will want to be more active in preventing any gaming addiction.

Lastly, gambling addiction will have other consequences that could potentially hinder a teenager’s life and growth as an adult. For instance, poor school achievements and antisocial behaviors are hard to correct one they become rooted. Mood swings based on whether their wagers paid off or not can exacerbate their bouts of depression or anxiety.

How To Stay Informed About Teenage Gambling

Nation-wide, you should start your research with the National Council on Problem Gambling. The NCPG’s mission is to assist families and individuals who fell victim to problem gambling, as well as being in constant liaison with stakeholders from the gambling industry, and the political world. The NCPG publishes multiple reports and informational documents to help you solve any teenage gambling issue you may encounter. If a problem is beyond their scope, they will redirect you to the right organization or person.

Each state has organizations charged with educating problem gamblers and the people around them. State institutions may be better if you are ready to consider therapy for the teenager with the gambling habits. State associations generally work with a network of addiction specialists but they do need the patient’s willful approval.

All in all, most teenagers will go about their esports and video games very responsibly. Some may even make a living out of it. However, money is not a concept fully understood by most teenagers therefore gambling in teenagers can be risky. Adults surrounding a teenager should stay informed on the news ways available to gamble for teenagers, and how to monitor these.

Author

Shaun Smith is Marketing at BETANDBEAT

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