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Navigating Teen Gambling Problems: A Guide for Parents

Written By : Daniel Currie

Today, we're diving into a topic that's quietly making waves yet is as close to us as our smartphones: the increasing issue of teen gambling. In this digital age, our teens have the world at their fingertips, including the not-so-great parts like online betting. It's a reality we can't ignore, sparking some really important chats among us concerned folks. Let's navigate this together, exploring how we can keep our kids safe and sound in the online world.

Published On : 4/1/2024

Group of friends taking a selfie while playing a gambling game outside on a balcony having a good time

Why Teens Are the Greatest Risk for Gambling

"Many online gambling options will seem familiar to teens," Sarah Clark, MPH of Michigan Medicine, said in a news release. "They feel like games kids have been playing on their phones, including features like bonus points and rewards. That familiarity may make it harder for teens to appreciate the difference between playing for fun and playing for money."

The Digital Gateway to Gambling

Smartphones and the internet have revolutionized gambling, transforming it from an adult-only pastime to a widespread temptation accessible on every smartphone and computer. Sarah Clark's insights highlight just how easily teens can find gambling opportunities online, stressing the need for us to tackle this issue head-on. In today's digital landscape, where gaming and gambling often intertwine, distinguishing between safe entertainment and risky behavior is increasingly challenging. This is particularly true for teens deeply immersed in the online world, notably gamers.

Smartphone reading "YOUR BET WINS!!!" Sitting on top of 5 $100 bills sitting on top of a laptop and a novelty soccer ball

Teen Gambling Problems:
Increased Risk for Gamers

Teens totally get that the real world doesn't roll like a video game, especially when sorting out right from wrong. But here's where it gets tricky: online gambling games, yep, they're pitched as just 'games,' start to look way too much like those chill, everyone-loves-them games—think Monopoly Go! or Candy Crush. It kinda blurs the moral lines, doesn't it? I mean, when's the last time you saw an online gambling site with the vibe of Call of Duty or Final Fantasy? Exactly, that's the hiccup; these sites are all dolled up with a 'rated E for Everybody' facade. It's a sneaky twist, making it super important for us to chat with our teens about spotting the difference and keeping those gaming adventures healthy and fun.

Teen man with dark long hair and dark shirt playing VR with a headset on with teen girl friend and dyed pink hair watches and points at the TV screen

Curious about how video games might be shaping the way our teens make decisions, especially with the blur between online gaming and gambling? Dive into one of our previous blogs for some eye-opening insights and tips. You won't want to miss it!

"It doesn't mean their brain processes that content in the way we see it...the child/teen is NOT thinking about using a gun and killing anybody. They are thinking a child/teen, the 50 points (they earned for a kill) make it that much closer to an achievement or something they can get with the points. The result is that the gamer usually sees it as problem-solving, solving the equation instead of focusing on the objects used and what was done with it."
Cover Photo for "Raising Teens Today: Help Deciding the Proper Video Games For Their Age" with 3 friends playing a video game on a computer logo of a cartoon drawing with 3 teenagers walking away with bookbags on

Daniel Currie, Guiding Teenagers

Raising Teens Today: Help Deciding the Proper Video Game For Their Age

Why Parents are the First Line of Defense

Given the tricky moral landscape that gambling companies are all too eager to navigate, it's up to us parents to step up and be the first line of defense. The fact that so few of us have chatted with our kids about online betting points to a big gap in our approach. With just a quarter of us touching on the topic of gambling, we might be underplaying how enticing and accessible online betting is to our savvy teens. They're digital natives, after all, adept at exploring, hiding, and diving into gambling activities with a finesse that can take us by surprise. This makes our role in staying informed and stepping in more crucial than ever. Let's bridge that gap, start those conversations, and empower ourselves to guide our teens through the digital world with care and wisdom.

The Real-World Consequences of Virtual Bets

Computer graphic a smartphone with an app for sports betting and coins, basketballs, baseballs, soccer balls, footballs, and a tennis ball floating around

Gambling isn't just a harmless hobby for teens—it's a road that can lead to addiction, financial woes, and a slew of other troubles. My own path as a parent has been eye-opening, revealing the hidden dangers lurking in teen gambling. When I stumbled upon my oldest kid's dabbling in online betting through DraftKings Daily Fantasy, it hit me hard. Despite his casual dismissal as dealing with just 'chump change,' the potential for a downward

spiral was too clear, especially when losses piled up. It was a moment that called for action—no matter how challenging or uncomfortable those family chats might be.

Furthermore, having stood by friends witnessing the harsh fallout of their son's gambling addiction has deepened my understanding and resolve. What began as innocent wagers escalated to the point of losing significant possessions—a harsh reminder that these aren't rare tales but part of a growing issue touching too many families. We're in this together, and by confronting the problem directly, we can aim to halt this epidemic in its tracks. Let's arm ourselves with knowledge, open the lines of communication, and take decisive steps to protect our loved ones from the risks of gambling. It's about turning tough conversations into foundations for a brighter, safer future.

Engaging in Meaningful Conversations

The cornerstone of tackling teen gambling effectively is rooted in open, heartfelt conversations. Take the time to sit down with your teen, gently sharing your concerns and what you know about the dangers of gambling. Remember, it's not about giving a lecture but about fostering a two-way dialogue—listening, understanding, and offering guidance. Bringing up stories like the ones shared earlier can help underline the serious consequences of gambling in a way that feels real. Showing empathy and unwavering support is crucial; even a hint of aggression could shut down the conversation. Keep in mind, this isn't a one-off chat but the beginning of an ongoing dialogue. For more resources and advice on navigating these discussions, don't hesitate to look for expert guides and educational material. Together, we can create a safe space for our teens to learn and grow.

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Proactive Measures for Prevention

  • Educate: Dive into learning together—get to know the signs of gambling addiction and how online betting sites can be sneakily enticing, often disguising gambling as harmless fun with the use of celebrities and various non-monetary rewards. Discuss these tactics openly to demystify their allure.

  • Monitor: Embrace parental controls not as espionage but as a safeguard. Transparency is key; let your teen know about the controls and explain your reasoning. It's not that you don't trust them, but rather you're on the lookout for those who might exploit their enthusiasm.

  • Promote Alternatives: Channel the thrill of the gamble into exhilarating, real-world adventures. The adrenaline rush of a win can be found in the healthy rush of reaching a mountain peak, swooshing down ski slopes, or laughing through the loops of a roller coaster. Together, explore hobbies that spark joy and excitement in safer, rewarding ways.

Your Homework: A Plan of Action

This Week's Family Project: Let's dive into a simple yet impactful activity with your teen. We're not talking about anything too complex or time-consuming—just a meaningful project to get everyone on the same wavelength:

  • Together, explore the online gambling landscape.

  • Chat about the risks it poses.

  • Craft a family plan for navigating the digital world safely.


Plus, let's make a pact to keep the lines of communication wide open. Regular heart-to-hearts about what's happening online and decisions around money will now be part of our family's rhythm. It's all about staying connected and making smart, safe choices together.

Teen boy with dark hair playing on his laptop a game of online slots

Tools, Resources, and Support

The digital age brings not only challenges but also resources. Organizations like the National Council on Problem Gambling offer invaluable tools and helplines to support families navigating the complexities of teen gambling. Educating ourselves and our teens on these resources is a step towards empowerment.

  • To seek help, call 1-800-GAMBLER

  • For immediate assistance, call or text 988 anywhere in the U.S.


Together, we can navigate these waters, armed with the right resources and support.

Continuing the Conversation:

Diving into the challenges of teen gambling reminds us that we're in this together. Your stories, tactics, and wisdom are gold for the parenting community grappling with these very issues. If you feel moved to, please share your journey in the comments below. Your insight might just be the beacon of hope or the spark of an idea that someone else needs. Beyond sharing, here are some hands-on strategies to enrich your family's approach to navigating the complexities of gambling:

  • Spark Peer Conversations: Nudge your teen to chat about gambling and online betting with friends. Peer influence is a mighty force for fostering healthy habits.

  • Dive into Real-Life Tales: Hunt down documentaries, articles, and books highlighting gambling's impacts. These narratives can kickstart meaningful discussions and serve as teachable moments.

  • Boost Financial Savvy: Lay the groundwork for financial literacy early on. A solid understanding of managing money can demystify the allure of gambling as a quick cash fix.

  • Enjoy Screen-Free Bonding: Carve out time for offline fun. Whether it's board games, sports, or exploring the great outdoors, shared experiences can satisfy the thrill of competition in a wholesome way.

  • Reach Out for Expert Advice: Spot signs of trouble? Consulting with a professional can pave the way for effective intervention, helping your teen steer clear of or recover from gambling issues.

Computer Generated image of a caucasian hand holding a smartphone that says "ONLINE POKER" with poker chips and dice float around it

Together, we can guide our teens through this maze, fostering resilience, wisdom, and healthy growth every step of the way.

In Conclusion

Our teens are growing up in a world vastly different from the one we navigated at their age. As parents, our role is to guide them through this world with wisdom, empathy, and proactive engagement. By addressing the issue of teen gambling head-on, we're not just protecting them from potential harm; we're equipping them with the tools to make informed, responsible choices in all aspects of their lives.


Let's turn this challenge into an opportunity for open dialogue, strengthened family bonds, and empowered, aware teens. Together, we can face the digital age with confidence and hope.

3 teenage friends (2 African American, and one white with glasses) playing cards at a table. All 3 of them are wearing white shirts

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