Protecting Your Kid From Gambling Online In The US
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Protecting Your Kid From Gambling Online In The US

Protecting Your Kid From Gambling Online In The US

Does your child play an online game that features a reward structure of some kind? You know, once you gather enough elements in the game you either receive some bonuses, or extended time, or level up, or enter a bonus round. All of these types of extras that reward your child for gameplay can contribute to the development of gambling addiction. Although it may not be obvious at this point, any online game that has rewards as part of the way the game lets players progress is a form of gambling and it can be with something as simple as Candy Crush that is teaching your child the basics of gambling. So, how exactly can you protect your child from getting caught up in the world of gambling to the point where it becomes an addiction? There are several ways to do this. But before we get to that, let’s further explore what methods are used to introduce young people to gambling and the ways they are exposed to it daily.


Online Gaming Mimics Gambling

If your child has a particular attraction to online gaming, there may be a simple explanation as to why that is. Most online games employ gambling mechanisms that mimic the process one follows when gambling at an online casino. There are bets made, rewards offered, rewards won, or betting tokens lost. Some elements are incorporated in-game that will cost your child real money if he or she wants to continue with the game. Typically, these in-game purchases revolve around items that are required to progress further into the game where the player earns more experience, climbs to a new, more challenging level, or earns more characters or tokens to enhance gameplay. There are two ways that this happens. There is either downloadable content (DLC) or microtransactions. 

Downloadable content is where players are asked to pay a specific amount to receive additional levels and characters. Once the payment is made, the content can be downloaded to play. This is a common method where children who visit gaming sites can only play so far into the game before they have to pay to move ahead. A microtransaction is very different from DLC as they are often found in a game in the form of a loot box and inside that loot box will be random rewards. The rewards that a player can collect from loot boxes can be used further in the game to help in various ways. Sometimes a loot box contains clues or other game elements that range in quality from common to rare. All are intended to be used as additional game pieces that a player will use up as the game progresses.


How Your Child Is Already Betting Online

There are four things that your child could already be doing online that would be considered gambling. Here is a look at what they are and what they entail.


Skins Betting

A skin is a graphic element that changes the appearance of an item in-game. There are illegal third-party casino services that permit users to join their platform and instead of depositing real money, players can use their skins for betting. Because there is no real money involved, and skins are easy to get, a lot of underage bettors will enter the gambling world through skins betting. The interesting thing to note here is that the main way a player can get a skin is through a microtransaction which means that skins betting is gambling with an extra step added to it. Regardless, this is the most popular form of underage gambling.


Loot Boxes

We’ve mentioned these already. The gambling connection here is that for a player to move on in a game that features loot boxes, they have to purchase a loot box at specific points in the game. The loot boxes contain game elements that are required to progress further, win more or become stronger.


Esports Betting

Any online video game that gives users a means to bet on the outcome of the gaming competition is considered esports. This element is very similar to regular sports betting where professional sports events can be bet one where bettors can wager on various outcomes and odds are determined on these different outcomes which will decide the size of the payout. Games that have this type of in-game betting system include Counter-Strike and League of Legends.


Live Chat

This is an interesting one. Games that have live chat capabilities permit players to communicate directly with each other as they play head-to-head. The communication via live chat can include discussion on who will win a specific game challenge and bets can be placed between the players. Payment portals such as PayPal or Apple Pay enable the underage gamers to “pay up” following a live chat bet.


How Social Media Influencers Gambling

Young people spend most of their time online with social media. There are many “celebrities” that have been born through social media and as a result, have become influencers based on the number of people who follow them online. However, not all of these influencers are promoting legitimate products. One example was the Mystery Brand. This was a company that charged a fee for digital boxes that were supposed to contain various items from big-name brands. It attracted children in huge numbers who would “gamble” by purchasing these mystery boxes. Fortunately, Google stepped in and brought an end to the mystery box trend that was becoming a problem with children being exposed to this form of gambling. Social media also influences gambling through affiliate marketing. This is a marketing tool where a user has a link for a product or service and promotes it. For each person who follows the link and makes a purchase, the person who shared their affiliate link earns a commission. This is known as a method that encourages addictive behavior for profit.


How To Protect Your Children From Online Gambling

There are several tools you can use to protect your children from online gambling. Here is a look at the most common ones in use today:


Parental Controls From Your Internet Provider

Your Internet Service Provider (ISP) provides users with various parental controls to monitor or restrict internet access within the family home. Depending on your specific ISP, the controls will vary but you will be able to do things like blocking certain types of websites from being visited, limiting data usage, and setting time limits for internet browsing. All of these tools assist in keeping children from being exposed to websites or internet ads that encourage gambling activities.


Using Parental Control Software

This is the second layer of protection that comes from a downloadable software program. Net Nanny and KidLogger are two popular choices. Once installed and activated, these programs will monitor online activity and offer limiting options. You can restrict certain websites, limit screen time, block games and apps, and set time limits. Reports are provided by the software that will show you details on what your child has been doing online, and enable you to read any text messages.


Setting Limits On Usage

The operating systems loaded into Smartphones contain tools that you can use to limit screen time. The Google Family Link has something called a parents app that will give you the means to limit time on the phone and app use. For Apple iPhones iOS 13 there are parental controls built into it that let you set screen time limits, app limits, and some other settings that will reduce the amount of time your child will be spending on their iPhone or iPad.


Discuss The Issue With Your Kids

Maybe your child does not know that there are dangers associated with using the internet. The idea here is to be informative, not scary. Be open and explain why it is important for you to restrict the access they have online. Tell them that there are websites that are not legitimate and take advantage of young people without much internet experience. Teach them that things they encounter that don’t seem right, probably aren’t, and to trust their gut feelings.


Talking To Your Kids About Gambling

Sooner or later you are going to have to have The Conversation. This one is about gambling. Not sure what to say or how to approach the topic? Here are some points that you should make every effort to cover in the discussion you have with your child about gambling.


1 - It’s Illegal

You can start the conversation off by making the point that gambling for kids under the age of 18 is illegal. You may wish to add to this that although your child may not be spending time in a land-based casino, online casinos and casino games are off-limits. You may as well add to this a list of other gambling-type activities and games that you would consider harmful because they contain gambling elements and therefore, should be avoided at all costs.


2 - Be Careful With Online Activities

Tell your child that you don’t want him or her to be doing anything online that they feel they have to hide from you. This is also a good time to bring up and discuss that you have installed parental controls and that they are intended to monitor online activity. Don’t scare your child, but explain the importance of staying away from websites that contain questionable content including gambling and pornography, and why you don’t want them to visit these websites.


3 - Review Screen Time

Explain to your child what screen time is and why it has to be controlled. If you have a report printed out from the last session your child spent online, go over it and review the activity. Ask your child how they feel when they are online and how they feel when they are not near a computer or the internet. Their answer may assist you in identifying an early gambling addiction. Ask these questions each time you review a screen time report.


4 - Discuss Their Friends

Discuss the warning signs of gambling addiction with your child. Then ask him or her to think about their friends and classmates and if there may be someone in their circle who displays any behavior that can be identified as signs of addiction to gambling. Ask your child how they react when a friend tries to get them involved in gambling and offer solutions on how to handle it. By educating your child, you are equipping them with valuable tools.


The Signs Of A Gambling Addiction

Several obvious signs can point to a gambling addiction developing in your child. Here are the things to watch for:


How They Spend Their Time

If your child spends most of their free time visiting online gaming websites, this can be an early sign of the development of a gambling problem.


Won’t Spend Time With Family Or Friends

Although there are times when your child will not want to spend time with you or their friends, there is also a time when this can be a tip to another problem. If your child prefers to be online playing at gaming sites instead of being outside with friends and family, there could be an addiction forming.


Online Activity Is Noticeable By Others

If the time your child spends online is brought up to you by another family member, or a friend of your child’s, there is a problem developing.


Missing Money

If you have discovered that your child has been taking money from you and spending it online at gaming sites, this should be a red flag for you.


Selling Stuff

While it may not be unusual for your child to sell a belonging to a friend for some extra pocket money, if it becomes a habit, it could point to your child trying to pay off online gambling debts.


Angry About A Loss

If your child has become angry about their gaming activity or from spending money online at a gaming site and either losing it or not receiving what they purchased, you have another red flag.


Angry At You

If your child gets angry at you for restricting their online activities, this can be another telltale sign of gambling addiction.


Where To Get Help

In the United States, there are plenty of resources available for gambling addiction. This list below contains hotline numbers sorted by state:

Alabama Council on Compulsive Gambling - 334-277-5100

Alaska (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling - 480-802-4945

Arkansas (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

California Council on Problem Gambling - 714-765-5804

Problem Gambling Coalition of Colorado - 1-800-522-4700

Connecticut Council on Problem Gambling - 888-789-7777

Delaware Council on Gambling Problems - 888-850-8888

District of Columbia (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling - 888-236-4848

Georgia Council on Problem Gambling - 1-800-522-4700

Hawaii (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Idaho (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Illinois Council on Problem Gambling - 800-522-4700

Indiana Council on Problem Gambling - 800-994-8448 or 866-699-4274

Iowa (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Kansas Coalition on Problem Gambling - 1-800-522-4700

Kentucky Council on Problem Gambling - 800-426-2537

Louisiana Association on Compulsive Gambling - 877-770-7867

Maine Council on Problem Gambling - 207-520-0293

Maryland Centre of Excellence on Problem Gambling - 1-800-426-2537

Massachusetts Council on Gaming and Health - 800-426-1234

Michigan Association on Problem Gambling - 1-800-270-7117

Minnesota - Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance - 800-333-4673

Mississippi Council on Problem & Compulsive Gambling - 888-777-9696

Missouri (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Montana Council on Problem Gambling - 888-900-9979

Nebraska Council on Compulsive Gambling - 833-238-6837

Nevada Council on Problem Gambling - 800-522-4700

New Hampshire (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey - 1-800-246-2537

New Mexico Council on Problem Gambling - 800-572-1142

New York Council on Problem Gambling - 877-846-7369

North Carolina Council on Problem Gambling - 1-800-522-4700

North Dakota (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

The Problem Gambling Network of Ohio - 1-800-589-9966

Oklahoma Association on Problem & Compulsive Gambling - 1-800-522-4700

Oregon Council on Problem Gambling - 1-877-695-4648

Council on Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania - 800-848-1880

Rhode Island Council on Problem Gambling - 877-942-6253

South Carolina (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

South Dakota (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Tennessee (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Texas (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Utah (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Vermont (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Virginia Council on Problem Gambling - 1-800-522-4700

Washington - Evergreen Council on Problem Gambling - 888-547-6133

West Virginia (National Problem Gambling Helpline)  - 1-800-522-4700

Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling - 800-426-2535

Wyoming Council on Problem Gambling - 1-800-522-4700


How To Protect Your Child From Online Gambling

We can thank new technology for a lot of things. It has changed the way we communicate, do simple tasks, and seek information. However, it has also become an addictive source of entertainment for many, mainly children. A report by Common Sense that was released in 2019 revealed that 8 to 12-year olds in the United States spent - on average - 4 hours and 44 minutes a day in front of computer screens. Teens surveyed showed that they spent an average screen time of 7 hours and 22 minutes each day. These times were not related to school homework tasks. This means that your child probably spends a fair bit of time in front of a laptop, tablet, or phone if they have access to these tools at home. Each minute spent in front of one of these screens can expose your child to gambling activities

Fortunately, as parents, you have an opportunity to protect your child from these influences by following these simple steps.


Step #1 - Control Their Online Activity

Your first line of defense rests with parental controls. As outlined above, you can set all kinds of limits ranging from what types of websites can be viewed to how long the screen time will last to various other settings that not only give you control over the online activities of your child but also protects him or her from unwanted exposure to things they should not see while surfing the ’net.


Step #2 - Have Open And Honest Conversations

Although discussing online activity with your child may be a touchy subject, it shouldn’t be. You are not invading their privacy. All you are doing is being a good parent. Sometimes that means knowing a lot more about the things your child does than they may think you need to know. In your open and honest conversations, be sure to explain why you are being so careful about what they see and do online. 


Step #3 - Discuss Gambling And Addiction

You can’t block gaming and gambling websites without explaining to your child what they can do to them. This means discussing what forms of entertainment gambling looks like from lottery tickets to betting at online casinos. This also means you have to set an example for your child to follow which means your home should become a no gambling zone if you intend to teach your child properly.


Step #4 - Seek Assistance

Should your child exhibit any of the warning signs noted above, then you need to spring into action and seek professional help. The hotline numbers listed by state will bring you in contact with the resources you need to help your child recover from a gambling addiction. If you catch it early enough, you may prevent your child from developing a problem later in life.


In Conclusion

Children can be easily influenced and with technology at their fingertips, you may not know what it is that has them so captivated at times. If you are protecting your child from getting caught up in the world of gaming, which can be an introduction to gambling, then you have many options available to you. By taking advantage of these parental control tools, and being open and honest with your child, you can prevent them from developing a serious gambling habit. There are many resources available to you to help protect your child from one of the negatives of the internet.

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