Protecting Your Kids From Gambling Online in Great Britain
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Protecting Your Kids From Gambling Online in Great Britain

Protecting Your Kids From Gambling Online in Great Britain

In this day and age, protecting your kids from gambling online must start early. The fact is, the online games your kids' play could lead them into a life of gambling.

Unfortunately, young children unwittingly play games with the same type of rewards found in adult gambling. Some games aimed at kids simulate online gambling, daily fantasy sports, and sports betting; these may not involve money, but serve as a stepping stone to real money gambling.


Gambling Can Become an Addiction

You may be surprised to learn, gambling is considered a behavioral addiction in psychiatric literature. The American Academy of Pediatrics published a report in 2017, which found that screen time increases the risks of both adolescent gambling and substance abuse.

The fatherly magazine reported in 2018 that kids aged 14 to 19 develop a gambling addiction 7x more than adults. In 2018 The Guardian reported that in 2 years, the number of British kids aged 11- to 16 years old who were problem gamblers quadrupled.

It’s important to know what your kids are doing online. Whether it's their social media or video games, there’s a lot of outside influences molding your child's behavior. Naturally, when kids participate in activities online that simulate gambling, it can eventually lead to the real thing.

Game apps that simulate gambling could contain malware, infecting their mobile device. There are a lot of ways for criminals to take advantage of your children.

Let's take a look at the ways parents can protect kids from gambling online. Protecting your kids from gambling online now, will set them up for a brighter and more successful future.


How Gambling Online Affects Kids

It's not called “gambling,” but many popular online games aimed at kids are games of chance and award prizes, just like gambling. As a parent, you must be aware of kids' games that simulate gambling. Winning a prize through a game of chance gives the player a dose of the brain chemical dopamine, often called the feel-good neurotransmitter. The drive for a dopamine fix can lead to gambling addiction.

While ads for gambling websites both online and on TV are aimed at adults, they can tempt kids to gamble. The ads make gambling seem fun, exciting, and cool, and a sure way to get rich. Unfortunately, adults know this is fantasy, but kids do not.

Also, the popularity of eSports and eSports tournaments can lure kids into gambling; eSports betting with real money has become a hot trend. Many online sports betting websites, including William Hill, now set odds and take bets on eSports events. It could be just a short step from a teen playing eSports, to betting on eSports.


The Dangers of Online Gaming

Kids are motivated to progress through online games, often by obtaining objects, such as weapons for their avatars. To obtain these objects, some online games “gamify” the activity similar to gambling; players are expected to spend real money for the chance to win the objects that will help them progress in the game.

However, it’s important to know the difference between paid downloadable content for new characters or additional levels, and paying for randomized rewards. While games often sell content online for games, randomized rewards that mimic gambling are different.

Be aware, if your kids play games online, these elements can lead your kids into a life of gambling.


The Controversy of Loot Boxes

This is an element similar to a digital treasure box or a grab bag. Loot boxes are purchased with real money, but the player will only find out what's inside when it's opened. Loot boxes can also be sold or traded within the game to other players for in-game currency. The government of Belgium condemned loot boxes, and they were investigated by Sweden. China went so far as to restrict the practice. In the United States, Senator Josh Hawley drafted the Protecting Children From Abusive Games Act, which would outlaw selling loot boxes to anyone under the age of 18.


Skins Betting

A skin graphically changes the appearance of video game characters. For example, a skin could change an ordinary weapon into one with different colors or a different design. Skins are typically purchased with real money as an in-game purchase.

While this seems harmless, trading skins can take the form of gambling. Unknown to many parents, third-party websites allow gamers to gamble with their skins, using them like virtual currency.


Betting with Live Chat

Games enabling live chat during play allow players to make real money bets with each other while playing. Online payment apps such as Apple Pay and PayPal make it easy to settle a bet immediately after finishing a game.


Esports Betting

Kids who play esports, or who are ardent fans of esports competitions, can easily  find a way to bet on those games. For example, popular betting websites, like William Hill, take bets on esports tournaments. In 2019, esports betting reached £5.75 billion globally, and is expected to grow to over £11.5 billion a year.


Freemium Games

So-called free online games can be deceptive; for example, you can sign up for games like Pokémon GO, for free, but you pay for premium content. Premium content can include everything from new outfits for a player's character to things that help a player make progress in the game. Realistically, the amount a gamer can spend is unlimited. Typically, these games sell virtual “coins” that can buy things in the online game. This can lead to addictive behaviors similar to compulsive gambling. 


Who is Influencing Your Kids on Social Media?

The addictive nature of online gaming is not the only thing a parent needs to worry about; social media influencers popular with kids also promote different types of gambling. These influencers are followed by kids and teens on YouTube, Instagram, and other sites, and kids tend to trust them. Unfortunately, trusting the influencer can lead to kids gambling.

In December 2018, For example, popular YouTube influencer Jake Paul, with 20 million subscribers, promoted Mystery Brand in a video. That was quickly viewed more than 3 million times. PopularYouTuber, RiceGum, also posted a video promoting Mystery Brand; fortunately, RiceGum eventually issued an apology for promoting gambling to kids.

Now-defunct, Mystery Brand charged users to purchase a real “mystery box”, which would contain random items, and be delivered to the buyer’s home. However, a buyer who spent $99 on a “Chanel” box, only received a $28 bottle of Chanel nail polish. Moreover, purchasers reported the mystery boxes sometimes took months to arrive, or never arrived at all.

In December 2019, YouTuber Ridhwan Azman, from Singapore also posted a video for DrakeMall, another mystery box website. Azman has more than 570,000 subscribers, mostly kids. Unfortunately, unlike Mystery Brand, DrakeMall is still up and running.

Online influencers can also become affiliate marketers, and affiliate marketing for gaming and gambling sites is big business. Affiliate marketers can post their affiliate links in social media posts and videos. They can also display affiliate promo codes.

Influencers who are also affiliate marketers can potentially earn more if they addict their fans to the games they’re promoting. In turn, if those games simulate gambling in any way, the risk for kids to develop and gambling addiction increases.


Protecting your kids from Gambling Online by Monitoring Internet Usage

It's important that parents know how their children spend their time online; it's important not only to prevent gambling behavior, but also, there are many scammers, and even predators online. There are too many stories involving kids hooking up with people they meet online ending in tragedy.

Growing up in the digital age is very different to the world in which most parents grew up. The primary responsibility is with parents, when it comes to preventing harm to their children. That includes the dangers that come with gambling.

Fortunately, there are many ways that parents can protect their kids by monitoring how they use the internet.

In addition, many devices such as tablets, smartphones and game consoles have their own parental controls. These controls can limit your child's spending and restrict access to certain apps based on the app's age rating. Your child's smartphone or tablet could have these built-in parental controls. 

Likewise, your web browser may have built-in features and tools to help you control the type of content available. You can adjust the browser settings on your child's computer, tablet or smartphone to screen out content you don't want them to see.


Internet Service Providers Have Parental Controls

The four biggest internet service providers in the UK, Sky, BT, Virgin Media, and TalkTalk, all have free parental controls. These can be activated by their customers at any time. If you're interested in activating parental controls and don't know how, contact your provider's customer service.

Following a 2013 government agreement, ISPs offer:

  • Router-level controls automatically setting every device connected to a home's wi-fi network to any blocks set by the parent.
  • Simplified settings block categories of content. For example, Sky has age ratings, PG, 13, and 18 and over, while BT provides "light" to "strict" settings.
  • "Active choice" means that new customers can't completely set up their broadband until they've looked at the parental control settings. Also, existing customers occasionally receive dialogue windows regarding setting up filters.


HomeSafe by TalkTalk

HomeSafe blocks content at the router level, and the parental controls include Homework Time and Kids Safe.

Kids Safe generally blocks content, allowing parents to choose categories to be restricted. Among the categories are File Sharing, Suicide and Self Harm, Violence and Weapons, Social Networking, and Games.

Homework Time blocks gaming and social networking websites, either Monday through Friday, or seven days a week.


BT: Parental Controls

BT's parental control filters and simple and easy to use. However, it's pretty easy to bypass controls, and the filters can block too many unrelated sites, or not block unsafe sites. But overall, the filters do the job.

BT also covers the home's wi-fi, as well as the company's UK-wide wi-fi network, from the user's account. You can also set the filters to active on certain days and times of day, and the strictness level.


Shield by Sky

Sky Shield offers three control categories, PG, 13, and 18. There are other basic settings, such as custom category blocks. Customers can also block individual websites. However, Sky doesn't offer an option to limit the time spent online.


WebSafe by Virgin Media

Virgin Media's WebSafe offers network-level protection, covering every device connected to the home's network. Parents can also block specific sites, and WebSafe can be set for certain times.


Parental Control Software

 In addition to the control settings from your ISP, you can also purchase parental control software. This software can help you to fine-tune your parental controls.

  • Net Nanny: Allows parents to see where their child is going on the web, and also limits screen time. Also, Net Nanny used artificial intelligence to filter content and protect web browsing. Parents can also receive instant reports of their child's online searches. Finally, parents can see the apps on their kids' devices, and receive instant alerts when kids are looking at questionable content.
  • My Mobile Watchdog: This service allows parents to access their childs’ contacts, text messages, and call logs. Parents can also block certain websites and apps through the service.
  • KidLogger: This shows parents how long their kid is on a PC. It also shows what apps kids are using on an Android, Mac, or Windows device, what websites they visit, and more.
  • Qustodio: Parents can monitor their child's activities in real-time. It's an app that works on Android, iOS, Mac, Kindle, and Windows devices. Parents can limit screen time, block content, games, and apps, and set time limits.

Kaspersky Safe Kids: This software works on Mac, PC, and mobile devices. Parents can manage screen time, see usage, regulate the activity, block websites, games, and apps, and use custom settings. 


Setting Limits on Usage

Free apps can be used to limit how much time your kids spend on their phones as well as manage app usage. For instance, the Google Family Link for parents app allows parents to manage app usage and set screen limits.

Apple’s operating system also has a way to limit screen time, as well as app limits, and other parental limit controls. These can also be found on iPhones and iPads.


Talking to Your Kids About Gambling

Talking can go a long way when it comes to protecting your kids from gambling online. Also, discuss the other dangers lurking online, such as sexual predators, and tell them what to look out for. Today, kids as young as toddlers start using mobile devices; that means, having frequent talks from the beginning.

The best way to initiate an internet safety conversation is by using external cues. For example, if you see someone on TV getting into trouble online, that can be a way to start talking.

As a parent, it's important to create an honest, open environment, in which your child feels safe talking to you. Let your kid know you’re always there to talk with them about anything, without being judgmental. It's also important to model good internet behavior by limiting your own screen time around your kids. 

When it comes to gambling, your child needs to understand what gambling is, and why it's bad. Explain risky activities, and avoid addictive behavior.

Here are a few ways to talk about gambling with your kids.

  • Let them know, underage gambling is illegal.First, explain what gambling is and the different ways it might be disguised, without looking like a traditional casino game. Let them know anyone under the age of 18 can not gamble, including online. If caught, both they and their parents can get into legal trouble.
  • Tell your kids, “don't do anything online you don't want me to see”.Be transparent, and let them know how the monitoring and parental controls will work in your family. Let them know you’ll be looking at what they're looking at, and restricting certain times and activities.

Talk about screen time. Go over your screen time reports with them. Casually question them how they feel when they’re online, opposed to when they’re not. Watch for the warning signs of addiction.

  • Ask them about their friends and schoolmates.Ask your kid if they've noticed any gambling behavior among their friends and schoolmates. Ask them about how they handle that, and look into ways to help them.


When Gambling is Legal

Remember that some online games do have gambling-like features, such as Candy Crush Saga, which has loot boxes. These games are legal due to the way they’re designed. Also, trading in skins for in-game coins is legal, but could be considered a form of gambling.

Kids could also get into playing with fantasy sports leagues; these aren’t necessarily considered gambling, since it's a game of skill, not a game of chance.

Also, placing bets with their friends while playing games online is another gambling risk.


When Gambling is Not Legal

First of all, it's not legal for anyone under the age of 18 to gamble in any way. Furthermore, both traditional and online casinos are required by law to verify age.

Also, gambling on websites based in the United States is illegal. In the US, the FBI is on the lookout for:

  • Placing online sports bets or virtual card games from outside a gambling jurisdiction
  • Transferring money electronically in order to gamble
  • Playing in offshore casinos

Underage players. In the US, the minimum legal age is 18, but in some states, it's 21 years old.

If you have questions about legal gambling in Great Britain, you can go to the Gambling Commission website.


Spotting a Gambling Addiction

Be alert for these warning signs of gambling addiction in your kids. Early identification is vital to stop it before it takes hold.

  • Your kids spend most of their time gaming online.
  • Your child ignores family and friends to spend time on video games.
  • Your kid’s gaming behavior draws attention from others, who may mention it to you.
  • Your kid steals money from you or someone else to spend online gaming, or on mystery boxes.
  • Your child engaged in destructive behavior or sold their belongings for money to pay for gaming.
  • Your kids are frustrated with a game, but they spent more money trying to redeem a loss.

They're angry because you've restricted their gaming time.

In the case that your child has developed a gambling addiction, you might consider counseling or rehabilitation for your child. The fact is, they may need professional help to overcome their addiction.

Unfortunately, gambling behaviors that develop at a young age often carry into adulthood. Addressing the problem of gambling early on can prevent adulthood marred by gambling.


Protecting Your Child Online

Sadly, technology and screen time is addictive for many people, especially kids. One report found that, on average, 8 to 12-year-olds spend 4 hours and 45 minutes on screen time entertainment daily. Even worse, teenagers have an average of 7 hours and 25 minutes on screen time for non-school-related tasks. That is a lot of time!

If your kids are like most, they're on their computer, smartphone, or tablet for hours every day. Those hours potentially expose your kids to gambling in all of its forms.

To prevent your teen or young child from illegally gambling, use parental controls. This will also stop them from playing legal games with loot boxes, and other addictive gambling features.

Be sure to have open and honest conversations with your kids about gambling. Talk about what it looks like and why it can be addictive. Finally, regularly check in with your kids about their friends, and how they’re using their mobile devices. Children need to learn how to interact with both people and technology in a healthy way.

Remember, as a parent, it's your responsibility to teach your children good habits that will last a lifetime. While gambling can be fun on occasion, but on a regular basis, gambling can be very destructive.

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