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Study: Underage Gambling Low on List of Parental Concerns

10th December 2009 8:45 am GMT

A major new study by a Canadian research team looking at parental attitudes on underage gambling has revealed that very few parents are concerned by youth gambling risks, even as rapidly expanding new technologies offer children and teenagers more opportunities to gamble.

Entitled "Parents as Partner", the study was initiated by youth strategy firm DECODE in collaboration with the International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky of Canada's McGill University.

The study was developed in order to enhance the knowledge and understanding of parental awareness and attitudes toward youth gambling, especially against research that consistently suggests that underage excessive youth gambling is highly problematic and concomitant with a host of negative problems.

"Canada is a world leader in researching and understanding gambling behaviours, and this study looking at parents of teens is a global first," said Dr. Jeffrey Derevensky. "However, while there are some resources on youth gambling currently available for parents, and other resources being developed, this is still an emerging area."

The study found that parents did not perceive underage gambling to be as serious as various other youth issues. Underage gambling was the least serious youth issue with 40% of parents citing it as a concern, well behind concerns about drug use (87%), alcohol use (82%), drinking and driving and unsafe sexual activity (both 81%), and even excessive video game playing by teens (64%).

More than one-third of parents said there was internet access in their child's bedroom, with 72% of parents indicating they usually monitor their child's online activities. A significant portion of parents do not set controls on their computer however and only 9% of parents reported installing anti-gambling software on their child's computer.

The study also claims that 67% of parents believe their child would be receptive to discussions about gambling and excessive gambling, yet 66% of parents report that they "rarely" or "never" discuss gambling-related issues with their child, reflecting its low priority.

Among participating parents, 82% report engaging in some form of gambling during the past twelve months, with lottery tickets the most popular gambling activity with 71% of respondents taking part. The study said that parents were clearly aware of the negative aspects of gambling, with 64% suggesting it was not an appropriate activity for teenagers.

In terms of playing poker, parental concern for their child's participation increases when the game is played online compared to at home or with friends elsewhere, both when money is exchanged and even when no money is used. 51% of parents remain concerned if their child gambles for any amount of money.

The study also revealed that 24% of parents said their child received some form of lottery ticket as a holiday, birthday or other gift from a family relative or friend, with a similar representation (21%) of parents giving lottery tickets to their own child.

When asked specifically about their child's participation in gambling activities, 13% of parents indicated that their child had taken part in a gambling activity for money. Against that however, the report cited recent youth research which revealed the number of underage people taking part in these activities to be four to six times higher, illustrating the gap in parents' awareness.

The research highlighted the paradoxes of parental attitudes toward youth gambling, with parents expressing strong opinion to underage gambling, despite their actions contradicting their stance.

"Parents should be made more aware of the rapid growth of underage gambling activities, including on social networking sites like Facebook," said Eric Meerkamper, President of DECODE, the youth-focused strategy firm which collaborated on the study. "Encouraging parents to speak with their children about gambling is particularly important since unregulated online opportunities for youth gambling are growing at a phenomenal rate."

Researchers interviewed 2,700 Canadian parents with teenage children as part of the study that was funded by a consortium of organisations interested in gambling behaviour, including the British Columbia Lottery Corp, Nova Scotia Gaming Corp, and Alberta Gaming and Liquor Commission amongst others.

The "Parents as Partners" study was conducted between August 2008 and April 2009 and consisted of both quantitative and qualitative study elements.

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