How To Protect Your Child From Gambling In Canada
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How To Protect Your Child From Gambling In Canada

How To Protect Your Child From Gambling In Canada

Gambling in Canada continues to grow. Thanks to the internet, it has provided anyone with online capabilities the opportunity to connect to any one of countless online gaming websites. With such easy access, online gambling is an attractant to not just Canadian adults. Although the Canadian Criminal Code prohibits underage gambling, it still happens and is a growing concern. In this article, we will take a closer look at the issue of underage gambling and discuss ways you can protect your children from getting involved in this damaging activity.


Why Children Are Attracted To Gambling

Studies conducted in Canada reveal that the number of teens who actively engage in wagering activity at home or school tends to lead to gaming addiction. The stats show that individuals aged 14 to 19 have a rate of gambling addiction that is seven times higher than that in Canadian adults. The study, which focused on the behavior of children shows these four key points:

- Family members who gamble (including giving or receiving lottery tickets as gifts) are an influence on their children

- Children as young as 9 and 10-years old have been found to engage in underage gambling activities

- As teens get older, they will engage their friends or classmates in gambling activities

- Addictive gambling behavior is more likely to develop in boys than girls


The Common Forms Of Gambling For Canadian Children

So, what games are your kids playing at school or with friends? Well, as it turns out, they are not just attracted to games of chance. The big magnet that parents need to be aware of is something called “gamification” that is aimed directly at younger audiences. The concept of gamification is simple. It is a marketing tool employed by a wide variety of websites to attract the younger demographic. Gamification is the implementation of gaming elements such as a progress bar showing increases based on time spent at the site or some other measurement, levels that encourage attempts at getting to higher levels to unlock offers or bonuses, and experience measurements. All of these tools result in exposing children to gaming without them being aware of it taking place.

Underage gamblers in Canada do not, however, gravitate towards legal provincial or territorial-sanctioned online gaming sites. This is very likely due to the screening process used at these sites to verify the identities of those joining. 

Then there are those sketchy website operators. These are the ones that will use gamification to their advantage and trick underage children into registering for something through a pop-up that may redirect to an illegal website or lead to malware installation on the device being used. The internet is not a friendly place for young children who can be easily led to do things online that they may not normally do otherwise because it looked interesting and hooked them. This is one of the reasons why parents should monitor the online activity of their children or have software installed that restricts the types of websites they can visit. Setting time limits for computer use is another way to control where children spend their time online as gamification is found on many different websites.


How Social Media Influences Young Gamblers

Social media is where young people spend a lot of time online. As a result, they tend to get influenced by the so-called “social media influencers” and this is hard for parents to monitor. One example is YouTube and some of the partnerships they have with different brands and websites. Some of the offers presented from these partnerships have gambling elements to them which can be harmful to children. Affiliate marketing is another tool used on social media where if you have an affiliate link and someone joins through it, you receive a commission. This encourages addictive behavior for profit. It may not sound harmful in the beginning, but the lure of “fast money” is what traps many young people into thinking that they can become rich without having to work at it.


Online Gaming Is An Influencer

Online gaming uses something called “microtransactions” that can lead to addictive gambling activity. Almost any online game uses gambling mechanisms (bonuses, level-ups, etc.) and will charge money for access to items that result in players progressing further into the game world of the game being played. There are two things to watch out for. One is DLC or downloadable content. This is where players pay a specific amount for something they can download to enhance their gameplay. It could be a new level, new characters, etc. Then there are microtransactions. These are usually delivered in the form of boxes filled with “loot” to help the player reach a new level or in random prizes that also increase the progress of the player. These are tools that encourage addictive gambling.


Common Forms Of Online Gambling For Underage Players

Here is a quick review of the three most common forms of online gambling that underage players are participating in and may not even realize that they are gambling. 


Esports Betting

Although they don’t say this upfront, some online video games are considered esports. This is a term used to describe the process of betting on the outcome of a gaming competition. This is used in the video games Counter-Strike and League of Legends. By betting on the gaming competition outcome, young players are introduced to the very same methods used for betting on professional sporting events. The esports betting market is estimated to be worth $16-billion.


Loot Boxes

We mentioned these already but did not clearly define them. A loot box is an in-game purchase that players can buy and once opened, will reveal various items that are related to the game they came from. For example, a loot box can contain common and rare collectible game cosmetics that can be used by the player to assist with navigating through the game. Loot boxes are outlawed by many governments and have been deemed illegal in China.


Skins Betting

The graphic element that alters the appearance of an in-game item is called a skin. There are unlicensed third-party casino operators that allow underage players to join their platform and use their game skins for betting rather than using real money. The interesting thing here is that the only way a player can get a skin while gaming is through microtransactions which adds a step or two to the gambling element that skins betting contains.


How To Protect Your Underage Child From Gambling Online

We’ve mentioned a few of the tools available to parents for controlling online activities and they form part of this list of ways to protect your children from getting involved in online gambling. Here is a look at four of the most effective things you can do as a parent to assist your children as they explore the world around them and need to deal with the influences they encounter that could lead them astray.


ISP Parental Controls

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) will have parental controls available for you just for asking. These controls will block access from any device connected to your home internet service to websites that offer the content you are trying to keep your children from seeing. This can include websites that contain gambling, pornography and any other form of content that you feel can be harmful to your children. 


Parental Control Software

In addition to utilizing your ISP’s parent controls, you can add another layer of protection by downloading one of many different parental control software programs that are available. You may have heard of KidLogger or Net Nanny. What these programs do is let you monitor the online activity of your children. This means it blocks certain websites but lets you read their texts and see their social media activity. 


Set Internet Usage Limits

Depending on the operating system of your family's devices, you can set screen time limits where your children will only be able to access the computer and internet between predetermined hours. If you have a child who tends to stay up later than normal because of the distraction of the internet, usage limit setting can be an effective tool. They can also be set through the settings option on Smartphones.


Engage Your Children In Conversation

Have you ever talked to your children about the internet? If not, now is the time to discuss what dangers exist that can be found just through casual online browsing. Let them know that there are things you don’t want them to see and that it is to protect them from bad influences. Also, set a good example by keeping your screen time under control as you are the biggest influence on your children’s behavior.


How To Explain Canadian Online Gambling To Your Child

Well, we have outlined how children can be attracted to gambling activities and some of the common games they may play that have gambling elements in them. But we have not discussed the importance of explaining to your child what gambling is and how it can get out of hand. For many parents, it is not an easy conversation to have. However, if you approach it as an educational discussion where you want your child to understand that gambling can be harmful and lead to a dangerous addiction, you are going to be able to share some valuable knowledge that could prove to be very helpful in the future. Here’s how you do it.


1 - Talk About The Parental Monitoring Software

Be upfront and honest with your children by telling them you don’t want to see them doing anything online that can get them into trouble. Explain that you have installed parental control software and outline what information you will be able to track with that software. The idea here is not to scare your children, but to let them know you will be able to see everything they do online and that is why they mustn't visit certain websites or engage in certain activities while online. Be sure to make it very clear that these controls are in place to protect them from dangers that exist throughout the internet.


2 - Talk About Underage Gambling

Explain to your children that laws exist in Canada through the Canadian Criminal Code, that makes underage gambling illegal. Understand that children under 18 tend to start gambling simply because no one has told them that they shouldn’t. This is your time to tell your children this and an excellent opportunity to discuss what gambling is and isn’t. Don’t leave out lottery tickets, bingo, or any other form of gambling that seems to be anything but gambling. Essentially, any activity that is based on a game of chance is considered gambling. This also includes raffle ticket draws and other events that require a ticket purchase to win.


3 - Talk About What Screen Time Is And Can Do

Your children may not realize that the amount of time they spend in front of a flickering screen can contribute to the development of a gambling addiction just from the things they see online not related directly to gaming. This is also a good time to take a look at the screen time reports that can be printed from the parental control software programs and go over them together. Ask how your child feels when not accessing the internet or using a phone. Does your child have other interests or just looks forward to being online? The answers to these questions may help you to identify the early signs of an addiction.


4 - Talk About Friends And Their Activities

Because gambling is generally a social activity, if your children are engaged in it, chances are that they participate with friends and classmates. Even if your children don’t currently gamble, but know underage friends who do, this is a perfect way for you to discuss why you want your children to avoid getting influenced by their friends to play any of the games that have gambling elements in them just because their friends are playing them. This doesn’t mean your children can’t be friends with these other children, you just need to be clear that illegal gambling activities are out-of-bounds for your children.


5 - Talk About Games That Have Gambling Elements

One way to make your children aware of what to watch out for is to give them examples of games that can promote addictive behavior. Popular games to watch out for include Clash Royale, Saga, and the extremely popular Candy Crush. How can Candy Crush be addictive? Well, they all contain in-app purchases (microtransactions) for loot boxes. The scoring activities and leveling up requirements of these games can potentially develop addictive behavior. Your children need to know this and understand why screen time limits and parental controls can help to control these situations to prevent them from becoming addicted.


Warning Signs of Canadian Gambling Addiction

There are a few obvious things that can tip you off to the potential of your child developing a gambling addiction. Psychologists have spent a considerable amount of time studying gambling and addictions and have in recent years reclassified gambling addiction as a behavioral addiction where it was once considered an impulse control disorder. As such, several warning signs may tip you off to a problem that is developing with your child. Here is a look at the most common warning signs.


1 - Computers Over Companions

If your child seems to spend far more time accessing the internet than hanging out with friends and family, there could be a problem in the works. First, ensure that the time spent online is at a gambling website or playing games that contain gamification elements. There will be times that your child will not be interested in being with friends or other family members. This is normal but if those relationships get pushed aside to make time for online gaming activity, then you should take action.


2 - Missing Money, Selling Possessions

If you suspect your child of stealing money from you or has been selling belongings for no apparent reason, you may have the early signs of a gambling problem on your hands. It is not unusual for a child to “borrow” a few bucks or to sell something of theirs to a friend but if these activities become a habit, they can point to your child having to raise money for online gambling deposits to pay off debts already incurred. You can halt this by restricting internet access as soon as possible.


3 - Anger Related To Money/Loot Boxes

If your child gets angry about losing money on loot boxes or that you have blocked access to these types of websites, it could be a signal related to a much bigger problem. This is the time to reach out to a gambling addiction association to seek counseling assistance for your child. The sooner this process begins, the quicker they can overcome the addiction. Taking care of this early in their life will improve their chances of not taking the gambling addiction behavior into their adult life.


Where To Seek Help In Canada

There are toll-free helplines in each province and territory that can offer assistance in dealing with gambling addiction. Here they are:

  • Alberta Problem Gambling Resources Network 1-866-461-1259
  • British Columbia Problem Gambling Help Line 1-888-795-6111
  • Quebec Gambling: Help and Referral 1-800-461-0140
  • Manitoba Addictions Help Line – Problem Gambling 1-800-463-1554
  • Newfoundland Problem Gambling Help Line 1-888-899-4357
  • New Brunswick Gambling Information Line 1-800-461-1234
  • Northwest Territories General Help Line 1-800-661-0844
  • Nova Scotia Problem Gambling Help Line 1-888-347-8888
  • Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Help Line 1-800-265-3333
  • Ontario ConnexOntario Help Line 1-866-531-2600
  • Prince Edward Island Problem Gambling Help Line 1-855-255-4255
  • Saskatchewan Problem Gambling Helpline 1-800-306-6789
  • Yukon Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services 1-866-456-3838


Additional Ways To Protect Your Children

Screen time is a very real problem in Canada. Research shows that the average Canadian spends 4.2 hours on the computer per day, 3.1 hours in front of a television, and 2.4 hours looking at the screen on their Smartphones. That totals roughly 11 hours per day and makes it easy to understand how addictive behavior can happen with all of that screen time. But there are ways to break that pattern and they include three simple tips that can be implemented today.


Tip #1 - Start Using AdBlocker Software

The primary traffic source for gaming platforms to reach new players is through internet advertising. AdBlocker software will keep gambling ads away from your child reducing their exposure to gaming activities that could be harmful to them.


Tip #2 - Talk To Your Children

We’ve outlined the sort of discussion you should have with your child. Good communication between parents and children can help a great deal. This is especially true when teaching your children about the dangers of the internet and online gaming platforms.


Tip #3 - Monitor Their Online Activity

You are not being a spy and you are not invading their privacy. If anything, you are being good parents by keeping an eye on the places your children go when they are online. By monitoring their online activities, you can see that they are listening to what you are telling them about addictive behavior.


In Conclusion

In Canada, underage gambling addiction is growing at a faster rate than it is for adults. There are many reasons for this but mostly come from influences from the world around them. Parents can help their children navigate these hurdles by teaching them that ways to spot gambling in games they play online and other activities they engage in away from the home. Educating your children on the evils of gambling can prevent them from developing a problem later in life. However, parents also have to set a good example and not participate in any form of gaming activity for their message to get through and be honored by their children.

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