There was a great article in the Vancouver Sun documenting the incredibly rapid growth in exposure kids are having to emerging communication technologies. The article quoted research by Sesame Workshop suggesting “a quarter of U.S. kids are going online daily by age three, while around half are doing so by age five.”
So what’s this got to do with responsible gambling?
Gambling-related toys are increasingly available on store shelves, gambling-like games are readily available on social media sites like Facebook, and more than 1800 gambling websites are now available to anyone who can access a desktop, laptop or even a mobile phone. And not all of them scrutinize who or how old their players are.We also know that, according to the 2008 B.C. Problem Gambling Prevalence Study, problem gambling among 18 – 24 year olds occurs at a rate about 37% higher than the general population.
So where does that leave us?
A BCLC-commissioned research project (Decoding British Columbian Youth and Gambling, 2008) summed up the issue nicely:
Youth today have grown up in a world where online activities are continuously integrated into their daily lives. They are accustomed to easy access, instant information or play, and have developed the skills and savvy to use the Net with ease. Online gambling sites continue to increase in popularity, opening up countless avenues for youth to participate in gambling activities. The migration patterns identified in the study suggest that many youth who begin gambling online with “fake” money progress to “real” money sites afterwards. Social networking sites that are targeted to youth, such as Facebook, have quickly added poker and other gaming applications increasing the reach and popularity of online gambling.
So there you have it…the perfect storm. More kids are gaining greater familiarity with technology, which is delivering more gambling, which increases the risk of problem gambling among a still-developing population – or so could be the assumption.
But the “perfect storm” has a silver lining. While it may seem that easier access to gambling – such as through the Internet or on mobile phones – will lead to increased problems in the younger generation, there are also greater opportunities to teach our youth about responsible gambling.
The same research project also highlighted the fact that kids still consider parents the number one source for information about gambling and for modeling appropriate behaviour. A big starting point is having a conversation.
If you’re a parent, or an influential adult, you can learn more about what messages to offer and how to do it on BCLC’s GameSense for Parents website. B.C. parents can also download BetStopper – free software that blocks access to Internet gambling sites and content, preventing kids from venturing where they don’t belong.
BCLC’s online gambling products are safe and secure, so minors are not able to access them; in many cases they are more secure than casinos. Players must create a password-protected account in order to access games or purchase lottery products online or from a handheld device, and the player’s age and identity will be third-party verified against a credit file.
With technology rapidly advancing, we will continue to look for new and innovative opportunities to reach this younger generation with the information they need to develop healthy habits and healthy attitudes towards gambling.
Perhaps the “perfect storm” has a brighter side after all.