Tuesday 6th February 2018 was Safer Internet Day. Guest blogger Megan takes a look at how GamCare’s Youth Outreach programme can support young people to navigate their online lives more safely.
According to a recent report from the Gambling Commission, 3% of 11-16 year olds have ever spent their own money on online gambling, while 7% have gambled online using a parent’s account.
As online gambling becomes more prevalent, the need for education about the differences between responsible and problem gambling becomes even more necessary – as is the fact that schools have a role to play in protecting young people from the potential negative impacts of gambling activities.
The minimum legal age for most types of gambling in the UK is 18 years old. The exceptions to this are the National Lottery and scratch cards, which are open to anyone 16 years or older, and certain arcade games that have no age limits, such as penny slots and grabber machines. While the industry puts many age-verification checks in place, there are still ways for young people to access opportunities to gamble, for instance by using fake ID or someone else’s credit card details online.
Gambling can be a captivating concept, but the younger a person is when they start, the more likely they are to not be aware of the risks involved, fully understand the terminology used or know where to get help if they require it. If a compulsion develops, this can have a profound impact on a person’s life.
The internet presents both challenges and opportunities for organisations having conversations about safer gambling with young people.
On the one hand, online gambling can be more difficult to monitor and understand. New forms of gambling such as e-sports betting (placing bets on professionals playing computer games in front of live audiences) and skins betting (using roulette style games on third party sites to bet on the real-world value of in-game bonuses such as ‘skins’ for weapons and avatars) are increasingly popular.
There are also challenges around the invisibility of online gambling. Whereas a young person frequenting a gambling venue might be easy enough to spot, the amount of time a young person is spending gambling online – as opposed to using social media etc. – is harder to account for.
However, online services also offer opportunities to make a positive impact on young people’s gambling behaviour. At organisation level, filtering software that blocks access to sites with gambling functions can be effectively implemented by schools. Displaying information about safer gambling alongside other net safety posters is also recommended.
GamCare provides online resources aimed at young people that can be used in lessons and assemblies. Our dedicated website for young people, BigDeal.org.uk, hosts a range of quizzes and videos that can complement (but not replace) having supportive conversations with teachers or other responsible adults.
Ultimately, online problem gambling is a safeguarding issue and teachers must treat it as such. Only by doing so will schools be able to offer vulnerable young people the support they need.
For more information about our Youth Outreach Programme >>