Picture a typical gambler, and you might imagine an older gentleman having a flutter in the bookies at the weekend. It’s perhaps unlikely that you imagine a teenager, aged between 11-16, gambling alone online.
The fact is, a shocking 55,000 teenagers in the UK are addicted to gambling. A report released by the Gambling Commission found that 14% of young people gambled in the past week.
While that doesn’t sound like a lot in and of itself, when you compare that to 13% of young people who had drunk alcohol, and 4% who had smoked cigarettes, and just 2% who had taken illegal drugs, it really puts it in perspective.
What does the law say?
Gambling laws vary around the world, and restrictions for underage players vary with it. But according to UK law, the minimum age for gambling is 18 years old. This legal restriction applies to bookies, bingo halls, adult gaming shops, casinos, racetracks, and online gambling of any kind.
The only exception to this restriction is the lottery (both National and foreign), and football pools. If you are aged 16 years or older, you can partake in these games. Other forms of gambling that have no legal age limit are arcade games such as coin pushers, and low stakes fruit machines.
If your teen is found to breach any of the legal restrictions outlined above, they can expect to receive a fine of up to £1000 and a criminal record.
How can I keep my teen safe online?
Monitoring what your children are doing online can be difficult, especially with the proliferation of smartphones and mobile data. But there are things you can do to educate your children and keep them safe.
Firstly, keep your home computer in a common area such as the living room. While your teenager might have a smartphone, keeping your PC in a common space helps limit their activity somewhat.
It’s also worth adding parental controls to your home internet. This blocks inappropriate content, and limits what information is shared online. You can even block certain websites. Check with your internet service provider if you are unsure how to do this.
Try to set an example for your teenagers too. If you gamble, do so out of their eyeshot, and keep it separate from family activities. For example, if you go to an amusement arcade, avoid the high stakes betting machines in the adult section.
The best way to protect your children against the dangers of online gambling is through education. Many teenagers see gambling as a glamorous, risk-free activity, normalised by its depiction in TV and films.
Teach your teenager about the realities of gambling and about how easy it is to become addicted. Encourage them to ask questions and have a conversation — break the taboo so your teenager feels comfortable talking to you about online gambling.
How to help your teen manage their money safely
One of the best ways to keep your teen safe online is to teach them how to manage their money wisely. Sit down with your teen and talk to them about personal budgets. You could even run through your own budget, showing what regular debits come out of your account and how you plan for the month ahead. Run through your shopping budget, utilities, and other outgoings and give them personal tips on how you manage your household finances.
There are a number of dedicated apps that help you manage your money wisely. These let you set strict budgets, and notify you via push notification when you’ve overspent. Money management apps like Mint are great for helping teens better understand personal cash flow, debits and credits.
Talking about gambling with teens
While gambling and casinos may seem exciting and glamorous to teens, it’s important to talk about the risks too.
Being open and upfront about things like gambling in your home will prevent casinons from becoming a ‘forbidden fruit’ that teens will feel the need to ‘test’ as they experiment with their boundaries.
Playing games at home and teaching them games like poker in a safe setting can help them satisfy their curiosity. Show that it’s OK to enjoy playing games and placing bets, but that online gambling is something that should only be undertaken as an adult.
Discuss the importance of boundaries and setting up rules and limits to activities like gambling, drinking, going out, playing video games etc.
As the report from the Gambling Commission shows, online gambling addiction poses a serious risk to thousands of UK teenagers. While it’s possible for adults to enjoy online gambling safely, it’s important that teenagers are educated about the potential risks early on in their lives. Follow the tips above and teach your teenagers about the dangers of online gambling today.