One in six admit they probably wouldn't know if their child was betting online, national poll suggests

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In recent years, there has been a significant expansion in online gambling, making it easily accessible to teenagers and young adults. Despite this growing trend, there is a notable lack of regulation and discussion surrounding the issue. The C.S. Mott Children's Hospital National Poll on Children's Health surveyed a national sample of parents with teens aged 14-18 years to gather insights into online betting behaviors and parental awareness.

Study: Parent Awareness of Online Betting among Teens. Image Credit: Irenepic84/Shutterstock.com
Study: Parent Awareness of Online Betting among Teens. Image Credit: Irenepic84/Shutterstock.com

Parental engagement and awareness 

About one-third of parents (31%) reported participating in various forms of betting, encompassing online, in-person, and social betting. This statistic is pivotal as it underscores a significant section of parents who are directly involved in activities akin to what they might need to monitor in their teens. Their personal experience with betting could influence their perception of its risks and benefits.

Advertisement exposure and legal age awareness

The survey found that a considerable majority of parents (63%) encountered advertisements for online sports or casino betting within the past year. This high exposure rate indicates the pervasive nature of betting ads in media, potentially normalizing the concept of gambling for both parents and their teens.

Despite this, over half of the parents (55%) were unaware of their state's legal age for online betting, which could affect their ability to guide or regulate their teen's online activities effectively. Interestingly, a substantial majority (67%) believed that the legal age for online betting should be set at 21 years, indicating a desire for stricter age-related controls.

Parental perception of teen betting

In contrast to the broad engagement in betting and advertisement exposure, only 2% of parents believed their teens were involved in online betting, with a higher incidence among parents of boys. Despite the low reported rate of teen betting, a majority of parents (55%) expressed confidence in their ability to detect if their teen was involved in such activities. However, this confidence might be overestimated given the discreet and easily concealable nature of online betting.

Dialogues on online betting risks

About a quarter of parents (25%) had discussed online betting with their teens. These discussions predominantly focused on the risks involved (18%), parental opposition (12%), and the prevalence of gambling advertisements (4%). The minority that talked about strategies to win (2%) indicates a varied approach to discussing betting. Importantly, many parents remained uncertain about the comparative addictiveness of online versus in-person gambling and whether social betting could be a gateway to online betting.

Recognizing and addressing the risks

Parents identified several risks associated with youth online betting, including debt accumulation (83%), gambling addiction (77%), ruined credit scores (51%), and potential drug or alcohol abuse (27%). Their suggestions to mitigate these risks included loss limits, parental monitoring options, stringent age verification, and access to addiction treatment. These concerns and proposed solutions highlight a growing awareness among parents of the potential negative impacts of online betting on their children's well-being.

Online gambling's appeal to teens

Online gambling platforms, resembling popular teen activities like fantasy football leagues and college basketball tournament pools, are gaining traction among young audiences. Online sweepstakes and social casino games, with their rewarding and engaging features, mirror the appeal of video and smartphone games. Since a 2018 United States (US) Supreme Court ruling, many states have legalized various forms of online gambling, though state laws on the minimum age and types of gambling permitted vary.

The challenges of online gambling for teens and parental response

Online gambling sites often lack strict age verification, creating loopholes that allow underage access. This problem is exacerbated by offshore sportsbooks and casinos that operate outside US laws, increasing betting risks for teens. Despite this, a Mott Poll indicates that few parents believe their teen is involved in online betting, possibly underestimating their teen's engagement due to the discreet nature of online platforms and teens' ability to register using their own bank accounts.

Parental awareness and dialogue are crucial. Only a quarter of parents have discussed online betting with their teens, who may not be aware of the risks and strategies gambling sites use to promote frequent and larger bets. Parents vary in their approach, from outright opposition to gambling to comparing its risks with other forms, including in-person gambling.

The constant availability of online gambling, along with push notifications, significantly increases the difficulty of resisting betting, raising concerns among parents about addiction and debt. To address these challenges, parents are urged to understand state regulations on online betting and advocate for protective policies like age verification. In cases of suspected harmful effects from online betting, families should seek immediate help, with resources available through state gambling hotlines for addiction treatment and support.

Journal reference:
Vijay Kumar Malesu

Written by

Vijay Kumar Malesu

Vijay holds a Ph.D. in Biotechnology and possesses a deep passion for microbiology. His academic journey has allowed him to delve deeper into understanding the intricate world of microorganisms. Through his research and studies, he has gained expertise in various aspects of microbiology, which includes microbial genetics, microbial physiology, and microbial ecology. Vijay has six years of scientific research experience at renowned research institutes such as the Indian Council for Agricultural Research and KIIT University. He has worked on diverse projects in microbiology, biopolymers, and drug delivery. His contributions to these areas have provided him with a comprehensive understanding of the subject matter and the ability to tackle complex research challenges.    

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