We need to talk to teens about gambling
Gambling is more promoted and easier to access than ever before. Teens are exposed to it more than most which can make it hard for them to recognise potential harm.
Teen attitudes towards gambling are shaped by:
- advertising they see
- sports they watch
- their online activity including gaming
- what their friends are doing
- how their role models approach gambling.
You can help teens understand how gambling actually works, and you don't need to be an expert on the topic to start a conversation.
Information, tools and tips
Telling gaming from gambling
Thousands of free apps and video games look like gambling and telling the difference between gaming and gambling is hard.
Many of these apps and games use inflated odds, giving players the impression winning is just as easy in the real world. And there's advertising on the apps and games leading to real gambling sites, creating an easy pathway to real gambling.
Australian research shows teens playing these apps may:
- think gambling is a normal everyday activity
- be more inclined to take up gambling
- be more confident about winning due to false beliefs about gambling odds
Even though a player can’t win real money from these apps, they can spend real money on in-app purchases to boost their chances in the game. These often cost only a few dollars but a player in the zone can rack up the expenses.
Video games like Grand Theft Auto, The Simms and even complementary games on Nintendo DS consoles feature gambling by including casino and slot machine elements.
Gambling is risky - but teenagers like risky
Teenagers test boundaries and take risks – it’s a part of growing up. But we can still arm our teens with the knowledge and skills to make informed choices to better protect them from harm.
Gambling - it's everywhere. Does that mean it’s normal?
Gambling is hard to escape. It’s on billboards, trams, buses and trains, social media and television. Then there’s apps and video games that look like gambling that often use odds that give the impression it’s easy to win if you gamble for real.
It’s so easy to gamble now. With a smartphone or a tablet, anyone can have a bet just about anywhere, at any time. This increased access can contribute to teenagers significantly underestimating the serious risks involved.
It’s never been more important to talk to our teens and give them the full story so they can develop a balanced view of gambling that acknowledges the risks and limited chances of winning.
For more information see three ways to reduce exposure to gambling
Guess what? Most gambling ads are pro-gambling
It won’t surprise you to learn that many gambling advertisements are pro-gambling. Look closely at these ads and you’ll see a betting agency trying to make a profit by using special offers, like bonus bets and other incentives, to encourage players to use their products over their competitors.
Free bets and money back offers can give teens the impression that it’s all harmless fun and easy money. We can’t stop teens seeing pro-gambling advertising, but we can help them develop the knowledge and skills to think critically about what they see.
Teenagers are online - so is gambling
On average, teenagers spend more than five hours a day online. The explosion of sports betting advertising and ‘fake’ gambling apps means this time is full of promotion telling them gambling is normal. It's not.
While they're watching You Tube videos, connecting with friends on Facebook and downloading games from iTunes or Google Play they're being exposed to gambling ads and games that look like gambling.
How can you keep teens safe in this pro-gambling cyber world?
- Point out that those funny videos about mates choosing gambling over girlfriends are designed to tap into their feelings of masculinity and mateship.
- Tell them their virtual wins on the top three casino-style games like Heart of Vegas, Slotomania and Big Fish Casino are higher than the pay outs in the real world.
- Winning in the cyber world will not help you win in the real world.
For more information see online gambling and staying safe online
What do teenagers think about gambling?
Teen thinking around gambling can be based on misconceptions about the risks involved and the chances of winning. A recent Victorian study of how males aged 15 and 16 see gambling found:
Myth 1 - A person can only become a ‘problem’ gambler if they have a certain personality type. Anyone can experience gambling issues at any time regardless of personality type.
Myth 2 – If you gamble with friends, you are unlikely to get into serious trouble. Gambling with friends doesn’t protect someone from gambling harm and friends may even encourage more spending than intended.
Myth 3 – Betting on sports isn’t as risky as other forms of gambling because it involves skill. Knowing a lot about a certain game or sport doesn’t guarantee a win. The best goal scorer doesn’t always kick the most goals, the favourite in a horse race doesn’t always win. It doesn’t matter how much you know or your ‘skill’ level because there’s no such thing as sure thing.
Loving the game not the odds
Gambling is changing the way young people think about sport. Commentators often talk about the odds instead of key information like player form and team injuries, so it’s not surprising when we hear teenagers follow suit. And when they see their sporting heroes endorse betting agencies, who could blame them for thinking gambling is a normal part of enjoying sport, when really it’s an unnecessary extra that should be approached with caution.
For more information see sports betting and gambling advertising
But they’re under 18, so they don’t gamble - right?
Up to 80 per cent of 13 -17 year olds gambled last year according to recent Australian research. This includes gambling with friends, playing lottery tickets, raffles and sweeps. Despite age checks in venues and online, teens are also gambling on the pokies, racing and sports betting. So it's important to talk to them about gambling sooner rather than later. And remember you don't need to be an expert on the topic to start a conversation.
For more information see talking to your teens about gambling
Talking to teens about gambling - sooner rather than later
Health experts say talking about gambling with teenagers is just as important as talking about other situations where risk may be involved - like driving and drinking.
Teenagers are reportedly five times more likely than adults to experience gambling-related harm. Because gambling can become an issue for teens, we suggest talking to them sooner rather than later. That way they’ll have a better chance of understanding the risks involved, what might be influencing their thinking and the limited chances of winning. This will help them make informed choices to avoid harm. And remember, you don’t need to be an expert on the topic to start a conversation.
For more information see talking to your teens about gambling