Parents Unaware of Teens’ Online Gambling: National Poll Highlights Risks and Ignorance

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Online Gambling

In a recent national poll conducted by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health, alarming trends have surfaced regarding parents’ awareness of their teens’ engagement in online gambling.

The findings shed light on the lack of communication between parents and adolescents, as well as a general lack of knowledge about the legalities and risks associated with online betting.

According to Sarah Clark, co-director of the poll, “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.” The expanded accessibility has increased exposure to the risks of underage betting, yet little regulation or conversation surrounds this growing problem.

Parents Unaware of Online Gambling

The poll, based on responses from 923 parents with at least one 14- to 18-year-old, reveals that only 1 in 4 parents had discussed virtual betting with their teenagers. More than half of participating parents were unaware of their state’s legal age for online gambling, and 1 in 6 admitted they probably wouldn’t know if their kids were gambling online.

In light of a 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, over half of the states have legalized some form of online gambling. While most restrict online sports and casino betting to individuals aged 21 and older, concerns persist about loopholes and the ease with which teens might bypass security measures.

Clark draws parallels between online sports betting and popular activities among sports fans, including fantasy football leagues and March Madness pools. She notes that many online gambling options closely resemble games teens commonly play on their phones, blurring the line between playing for fun and playing for money.

The poll indicates that 2% of parents suspect their teens have used an online betting platform. Surprisingly, more than half of respondents expressed confidence that they would definitely know if their teens were engaged in online gambling.

However, this confidence may be misplaced, as two-thirds of parents acknowledged that their teens have a bank account or debit/credit card in their own name—potentially used to register for online betting—adding a layer of complexity to the issue.

Clark emphasizes that parents might be underestimating their teens’ interest and savvy navigation of online betting platforms. With easy access via smartphones and personal devices, teens can discreetly engage in online betting, deleting search histories or hiding apps to avoid detection.

Widespread exposure to online gambling is evident, with over 6 in 10 parents reporting having heard or seen ads for online sports or casino betting. Young people engaging in fantasy sports or gaming apps designed for adults may also encounter gambling ads, often featuring popular entertainers or athletes and offering bonuses for continued use.

Despite the lack of awareness among parents, concerns about the risks of teen gambling are prevalent. Two-thirds of respondents believe 21 should be the legal age for online betting, while 22% prefer 18-20 years, and 11% argue it should be illegal at any age. Parents expressed worries about youth accumulating debt or developing gambling addictions.

A quarter of parents who discussed online betting with their teens emphasized the associated risks. Strategies to minimize these risks include restricting betting after a certain loss amount, implementing a “parent view” option to monitor online betting accounts, verifying legal age with a photo ID, setting limits on bets within a specific timeframe, and covering treatment costs for young people developing gambling addictions.

Clark urges parents to engage in open, ongoing conversations with their teens about the risks of gambling and its prevalence in their social circles. Despite the ubiquity of gambling ads, such discussions may equip teens to navigate social pressures and media influences associated with gambling platforms.

As online gambling continues to evolve, it is imperative for parents to stay informed and actively participate in guiding their teens toward responsible online behavior.


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