Michigan Study On Teenagers & Gambling Reveals Knowledge Gap For Parents

Written By Matthew Lomon on January 23, 2024 - Last Updated on January 24, 2024
Person filing out an online survey on a laptop. There is a University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital logo on the wall. A hospital study on teenagers and gambling reveals a gap in knowledge among parents

Does the average American parent think they’d know if their teenager was betting online?

According to a survey released Monday by the University of Michigan, most, or 55%, think they would “definitely know.”

By comparison, only 30% think they might know, while 16% said they probably wouldn’t know. That said, just 2% of parents believe their teen has used an online betting platform before. This figure, the survey says, was higher amongst parents of teen boys (3%) than girls (0.4%).

The survey was released by the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital National Poll on Children’s Health. It probed a national sample of parents of teens ages 14-18 about online betting. The study covered a variety of concerns related to minors and online gambling, including increased exposure, low barriers to access, and short and long-term risks to their financial and mental well-being, which are all significant components of concerns related to responsible gambling in Michigan.

The results suggest a clear need for greater education at the parental level.

Survey finds majority of parents unaware of their state’s legal gambling age

Despite nearly one-third of parents (31%) included in the survey saying that either they or another adult in their household participates in some form of gambling — and 63% noting they’ve interacted with online casino or sports betting ads in the last year — over half (55%) still do not know the legal gambling age in their state.

What’s more, two-thirds of parents (67%) believe the legal age for online gambling should be 21, while a smaller sample (22%) feels it should be 18-20. Going further, 11% think online betting should be prohibited altogether.

In Michigan, the legal gambling age varies based on the type of gambling (online vs. in-person) and where it takes place (tribal casino vs. state-run).

1 in 4 parents discussed online gambling with their teen

According to the survey, 25% of parents made an effort to discuss some aspect of online gambling with their teens. Within this group, topics included:

  • Potential risks (18%)
  • Personal opposition to online gambling (12%)
  • High volume of ads (4%)
  • How to win (2%)

However, many parents also had trouble answering related questions definitively.

When asked whether online gambling is more addictive than gambling at a retail casino, 45% were unsure, 44% agreed, and 12% disagreed.

The following question about social betting making youth more likely to wager online produced more of the same. Here, 45% agreed, 42% were unsure, and 14% disagreed.

The final question, however, clearly favored uncertainty among parents. When asked if it’s too easy for teens to open an online betting account, 63% were unsure, 29% agreed, and 8% disagreed.

After identifying risks, parents suggested preventative strategies

University of Michigan graphic showing parents' concerns about risks of online betting for teens

As mentioned earlier, parents feared both short and long-term risks to their children’s financial and mental well-being. The survey identified four concerns, in particular, that a significant percentage of parents hoped to address.

  1. Debt (83% of respondents)
  2. Addiction (77%)
  3. Ruin credit score (51%)
  4. Lead to drug/alcohol abuse (27%)

As a result, the collection of parents suggested five preventative strategies to effectively manage said risks.

  1. Restricting betting after a certain amount is lost (43%)
  2. Offering a “parent view” option to monitor online betting accounts (38%)
  3. Verifying legal age through photo identification to open an online wagering account (33%)
  4. Limiting the amount that can be wagered within a certain timeframe (33%)
  5. Paying treatment costs for youth or young adults who develop gambling addictions (25%)

The report did not offer any additional information regarding the feasibility of implementing such measures. But, at the very least, it offered insight on how to appropriately broach the topic with their teen.

Highlights from survey’s implications section

Inside the report’s detailed implications section, two points of emphasis stood out.

The first discussed the discreet properties of online wagering, namely the role of personal digital devices. Per the report, smartphones and laptops not only grant teens access to online wagering sites but also make it much easier to cover their tracks. This can be done by wiping search history or hiding the app within the device.

The report also pointed out that over two-thirds of parents (69%) revealed that their child has a bank account or credit/debit card in their own name, making it easier for them to deposit funds should they choose to.

Point number two touched on the prominent presence of gambling ads. However, instead of avoiding them altogether, researchers suggested parents use the ads as an opportunity to open a line of dialogue with their teens. In particular, the study believes this can stimulate productive conversations about the prevalence of gambling in teens’ social circles.

“Only one in four parents said they have talked with their teen about some aspect of online betting,” the report said. “Whether or not the child is actually using betting platforms, ongoing conversations may help the child navigate the social pressures and media presence of gambling platforms.”

Photo by PlayMichigan
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Matthew Lomon

Matthew Lomon has been a contributor at Catena Media’s network of regional sites since July 2022. He first broke into covering the legal North American gambling industry with PlayCanada. Since then, Matthew's reporting has extended to PlayMichigan, PlayPennsylvania, and PlayIllinois. Based out of Toronto, Ontario, Matthew is an avid (bordering on fanatic) sports fan.

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