Teen online gambling addiction on the rise

By Iasmina Bunea updated:

Gambling has been blooming in the last decades, with the surge of Internet users and options. However, this growth has its dark sides. Nowadays, online gambling can become a danger to teenagers and their kin. Let’s delve deeper into the subject and explore the helpful resources we have identified over the years.

What is teenage gambling?

There is agreement among scholars that teenage/underage gambling reflects the age group of 12 to 18. However, severe cases are recorded with children of the age of 7 participating in one form of gambling.

In the current time, old forms of gambling like card games and lottery draws are accompanied by occurrences such as video game loot boxes and fantasy-sports events. Of course, one powerful aspect that affects everything negatively is the continuous aspect of online gaming. No matter if it’s 7 PM or 7 AM, as long as your Internet connection is steady, you can keep on playing.

Year-long research has proven that gambling can become a severe addiction if not handled thoughtfully and with care. Studies say that that it operates just like substance addiction.

What is teenage gambling

How come?

It affects the reward circuits, parts of our neurological system, making our brains addicted to the feeling of winning and, reversely, wanting more when we lose.

Initially, researchers could not categorize problem gambling quite clearly. Still, the latest DSM-5 Work Group has decided to integrate it into Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. This is backed up by scans showing the brain acting the same when excessive gambling and indulging in substance abuse.

Aggravating factors

Online gambling on specialized sites like casinos or social media platforms can be done without payments, with tokens and “free games”. This liberalizes the act of gambling even further, and it exposes children and young adults to it much earlier than in-person activities.

Because it is difficult for them to discern the odds, kids may think that the winning streaks on “practice modes” will reflect real-money gambling. This is a strong factor on the path to problematic gambling behaviour.

BMC Psychiatry has also noticed a correlation between lower education levels or even school drop out and problem gambling.

Known consequences of teenage gambling

Both Canadian and international scholars concerned with the issue have uncovered a series of consequences related to excessive gambling at a young age. These have a wide range and can fall into:

  • Psychological issues;
  • Social problems;
  • Financial fallout.

Thus, the studies all come to more or less the same conclusions that we resume below so that you can get a clear understanding of the general situations.

  1. Males are more inclined to gamble as compared to females, even at a young age.
  2. Students with lower school performance are more affected by the negative impacts of online gambling.
  3. Older teens are at risk in a higher capacity than younger teens.

The next table demonstrates that males face higher negative aspects on all three fronts than girls.

Known consequences of teenage gambling

Psychologists and therapists agree to classify problem gambling as a continuum, meaning in lay terms that there are no “rough” or “good” spots until the problem is done.

Thus, it is vital for parents, teachers, and tutors to be highly aware of all the concerning factors. They can only intervene positively when they have all the facts by their side. This is a phenomenon spawning over several countries, with teens anywhere between 0.8% and 6.0% categorized as such.

What games or activities do teens participate in?

Card playing still ranks higher among offline activities, followed by skill-based gaming and dares between friends. According to Derevensky and Gilbeau, after card playing, the next most popular activities are sports bets, bingo games, and online bets, respectively.

What are the dangers related to excessive gameplay?

Teenagers can be affected emotionally, triggering depressive episodes and disinterest in social interaction and schoolwork. And since gambling addiction behaves just like substance addiction, these young folks are more inclined to smoke and drink.

The depressive episodes can stretch and worsen into feelings of deep anxiety and even suicidal thoughts.

Supporting factors of this problem

The reasons why teens engage in gambling, sometimes even excessively, are similar to the ones that adults have. Initially, there is a driving force behind the thrill of competing online or offline against peers.

It could also be the case that, along with the liberalization of gambling to the public, teens look up to professional players and desire to mimic them. Lastly, we cannot get over the role that gambling may play as a coping mechanism.

How does that work?

Teens are faced with a lot of stress from all facets of their life, be it academic and sports-related performances, to social areas like family and friends. Gambling may either take the toll off them in certain stressful situations or replenish feelings they lack.

The anxiety reducing nature of gambling, coupled with the way it incites the reward system, may create a mix of factors that makes it even more desirable for long periods of time. As far as international research is concerned, teens gamble for more than one reason.

How can you recognize a problem?

Just like any addiction, it starts with behavioural changes. If you see that your child, young family member, or a friend gets sulky more often and less communicative, it may be an early sign of the matter.

Another obvious sign is the challenge of recuperating all the money lost in previous gambling sessions. Alternatively, they may ask for more money than usual and borrow it from odd means.

In terms of school life, 1 out of 4 teens that gamble has also skipped classes to play more. Out of these truant students, 12% have also stolen money from their parents or guardians. These situations may also evolve into family issues.

In rare cases, excesses of any kind may be a kindling factor to delinquent behaviour. Thus, adolescents with problem gambling may be frequently seen associated with petty crimes.

How do game typologies change the scene?

The fact that most sites offer “free games” in practice mode or “free bonuses” makes gambling even more accessible, as it eliminates the paywall. This is one feature that facilitates gaming even further and an issue we do not take lightly.  Some sites operate with “tokens” that act as virtual currency, and they can be exchanged for prizes or more games.

Since the problem is defined as a continuum, also associated with changing cognition and irrational behaviour, these free incentives are negative factors affecting the mental state of vulnerable young adults.

Understanding the risks

Like any addiction, internet gambling affects not only the teen but also their family, friends, and general collective. This is why education on the matter and its risks is vital.

The US Federal Trade Commission has made it its mission to bring awareness to the matter; thus, we shall resume their points here. Online gambling can bring negative impacts; four of them found below:

  1. Offline and online gambling is illegal for minors;
  2. It integrates the risk of losing money and affecting your finances;
  3. It can create problems with your bank and your credit score;
  4. Any type of gaming can become addictive, with all the consequences already mentioned.

Prevention and help resources

Here is where we show you the most efficient strategies to prevent your teen from gambling excessively. These are followed by the best resources in Canada, tested by our team.

Prevention and help resources

Prevention steps you should take

All the steps below involve a heavy dose of communication between the family and the young adult involved in luck games. If there is any issue, you should reach out to trainers and therapists.

Explain gambling in simple terms

Your child needs guidance in all his/her activities, and a preamble where you explain the odds and risks involved with gambling may be a good idea to start with. Thus, before or at the beginning of their venture, you should lay down ground rules and explain the facts.

One important thing worth mentioning is the concept that the casino is, from the start, more likely to win, as they are a business that needs to survive, so the player’s odds are lowered by default.

Limit their Internet usage

Even though we keep talking about the dangers of online gambling, the Internet may become damaging to children and youngsters from a wide range of sources. Thus, you can eliminate the problem of Internet gambling by setting your child’s screen time.

You can give an alternative to these activities by suggesting outdoor activities that boost your teen’s health and stimulate their brain’s reward circuits.

Look for problematic signs

Suppose you see an adolescent exhibiting signs of odd behaviour, like extreme anti-social attitudes, moodiness, resilience to talk. In that case, you should investigate further into the matter. These are signs associated with risk gambling, but they may reflect other serious issues worth noting.

Invest in other family activities

You can’t wholly limit your child’s taste for gaming, but you can identify their preferences and skills and find another game type for them to thrive in. For example, if a child is innately good at statistics and strategies, they could excel in chess. If they seem more inclined to luck-based events, you can bring them to fairs and amusement parks and let them experience the thrill of chance there.

Solutions for the already existing problem

Researchers are in consensus that online teenage gambling can only be recognized and solved through community effort. Family, friends, caregivers, and role models all have to unite for a healthier environment, clear understanding, and better solutions.

Unfortunately,we have consulted several academic sources and concluded that underage gambling is a Canadian and an international issue with a potentially problematic nature.

Marketing and social media have to be controlled enough for gambling to be severely limited for children. There should also be clear delimitation between sport events and betting on such.

What are the available resources if you are confronted with such a problem?

youthgambling.com – This is a research, prevention, and treatment clinic that has been established in 2001 in Montreal. The venture originally started as two passionate researchers were digging for the underlying causes that push teens to gamble. It is now an international centre in the domain.

Prevention lane – This Oregon-based centre has compiled a great resource regarding youths’ online gambling, promoting healthy solutions and better attitudes for all involved. We recommend you give it a read!

problemgambling.ca – This is one of Canada’s most comprehensive sources, and they have hefty sections on youth gaming. They mostly rely on CBT therapies, which are the ones designed to shift your thoughts and actions for the better. They also offer personalized treatment based on feedback and motivational therapies.

They have also put out a handbook designed especially for parents that want to take precautionary action. It focuses on two main age groups, below and over 18, with defined strategies and advice for all individuals involved.

youthbet.com – They are a program that develops educational resources about gambling awareness, which in the future will help you be wiser when making decisions and protecting your minors. Their policies are constructed through the approach of harm reduction, so they solve the issue by minimizing their negative impact.

All in all, the problem of internet teen gambling cannot be ignored, but it can be prevented, solved, and minimized through common effort and smart policies. Our team will be here to update you on the latest solutions and moves in the domain.

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