While online gambling continues to grow, most parents say they have no idea whether their teens are placing bets
Just 25% of parents have talked to their teen about the risks, a new poll shows
More than half of states have OK'd some form of online gambling
MONDAY, Jan. 22, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Think your kid is safe from exposure to gambling?
Don't bet on it.
"Teens and young adults may have a difficult time going into a casino unnoticed but they have easy access to a variety of betting and gambling options," said Sarah Clark, co-director of C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health. "This expanded accessibility has increased exposure to the risks of underage betting, but there is little regulation or conversation around this problem."
Just 1 in 4 parents who took part in the latest poll said they had talked to their teen about virtual betting.
More than half of parents who participated didn't know their state's legal age for online gambling, and 1 in 6 said they probably wouldn't know if their kids were betting online.
More than half of states have legalized some form of online gambling in the wake of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Most restrict online sport and casino betting to people 21 years or older, but loopholes exist, along with concerns that teens may bypass security steps.
Clark likened online sports betting to fantasy football leagues and March Madness pools that are popular with sports fans, including kids.
"Many online gambling options will seem familiar to teens," Clark said in a news release. "They feel like games kids have been playing on their phones, including features like bonus points and rewards. That familiarity may make it harder for teens to appreciate the difference between playing for fun and playing for money."
The nationally representative poll is based on responses from 923 parents with at least one 14- to 18-year-old.
In all, 2% of respondents said they thought their teen had used an online betting platform, and more than half said they thought they would definitely know if their teen had been betting online.
Two-thirds said their teen has a bank account or debit or credit card in their own name that could be used to register for online betting — adding to the possibility that they could participate without their parents' knowledge.
"Parents may be underestimating their teen's interest and savviness," Clark said. "Online betting can be difficult to detect because a teen can easily log in on their smartphone or other personal device, delete the search history, hide the app or use it discretely."
Exposure to online gambling is widespread. More than 6 in 10 parents said they had heard or seen ads for online sports or casino betting.
Young people who engage in fantasy sports or gaming apps intended for adults may also see gambling ads. Clark noted these ads often feature popular entertainers or athletes and often offer bonuses for continuing use.
"Teens may be especially susceptible to these ads, which are often marketed to convey feelings of excitement, endless possibilities, and social credit," she said.
Many parents are concerned about teen gambling risks.
Two-thirds of respondents said 21 should be the legal age for online betting. Twenty-two percent would prefer 18-20 years, while 11% said it should be illegal at any age.
Respondents expressed concerns about youth going into debt or developing a gambling addiction, and a quarter of those who had talked with their teen about online betting said they had highlighted those risks.
Some said they support strategies to minimize the risks, including restricted betting after a certain amount is lost; offering a "parent view" option to monitor online betting accounts; verifying legal age at sign up with a photo ID; limiting bets within a certain period; and paying treatment costs for young people who develop gambling addictions.
Talk to your teens, Clark urged.
"The ubiquity of gambling ads may offer parents an opportunity to initiate open, productive conversations with their teen about the risks of gambling and its prevalence in their social circles," she said. "Whether or not a child is actually using betting platforms, ongoing discussions may help them navigate the social pressures and media presence of gambling platforms."
Harvard University has more about online gambling.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan, news release, Jan. 22, 2024
Talk to your teen about the risks of online betting and keep an eye on their activity and bank accounts.