Talking to Youth about Online Gambling

Research shows that only a third of parents have discussed gambling with their children,[1] perhaps because parents are generally unaware of their kids’ participation in these sorts of activities. It’s important to talk about it, though: research has found that family members' views about gambling are a major influence on how likely youth are to gamble.[2]

Online games of chance may seem innocuous, but the internet gambling industry is growing exponentially with more jurisdictions coming onboard – including several Canadian provinces. It’s a good idea to start conversations about online gaming with young people at an early age.

  • Discuss gambling and the risks involved, from compulsive behaviours to financial problems.
  • Check the ratings and descriptions of games your kids play to see if they have in-game purchases. If they do, make sure that they follow best practices (such as letting you know what you might win and how likely you are to win each item before you pay).
  • Make sure your kids understand that online purchases can cost real money. If they want to buy things online, including loot boxes, have them do it with gift cards to set a limit on what they're able to spend.
  • Don’t wait to talk to your kids about these issues. MediaSmarts’ research has found that 9-11 year-olds are about as likely to have played casino games online as 14-17 year-olds,[3] while youth who feel they are “addicted” to buying loot boxes typically bought their first one at 14.[4]
  • Encourage kids to push back against manipulative practices in games. Consumer action can make a difference: for example, pressure from players actually led to loot boxes being removed from the game Star Wars Battlefront.[5]
  • Help kids recognize the “dark patterns” that games and other sites or apps use to encourage you to spend more, and more often, than you otherwise would.
  • Install ad-blockers like Privacy Badger, Adblock Plus and Disconnect Kids on your children's browsers and devices to reduce the number of gambling ads they see. Set YouTube and TikTok on Restricted mode and have your kids give their real age when signing up for social networks so they'll be shown fewer age-inappropriate ads there.
  • Remind kids that there are so many gambling sites and apps because they make much more money than they give away to players.
  • Take the opportunity to teach your kids about probabilities. An Ontario study found that most youth have vague or erroneous ideas of what their chances really are.[6] For example, they believe they have a better chance of winning if they use random numbers instead of numbers that are in a sequence.
  • Adults should examine their own habits in this area and remember that kids model themselves after the trusted adults in their lives.


  • The Centre for Addiction and Mental Health’s Gambling, Gaming and Technology Use has self-help tools.
  • The International Centre for Youth Gambling Problems and High-Risk Behaviors
    at McGill University has a youth gambling website which has “myths versus facts” tip sheets and self evaluation tools.
  • The YMCA's offers a number of free interactive workshops of gambling and related issues.

[1] DeCock, R., Zaman, B., Van Mechelen, M., & Huyghe, J. (2018). Early Gambling Behaviour in Online Games. In Digital Parenting. The Challenges for Families in the Digital Age. (pp. 125–133). Göteborg: Nordicom.

[2] Pitt, H., Thomas, S. L., Bestman, A., Daube, M., & Derevensky, J. (2017). Factors that influence children’s gambling attitudes and consumption intentions: lessons for gambling harm prevention research, policies and advocacy strategies. Harm Reduction Journal, 14(1). doi: 10.1186/s12954-017-0136-3

[3] Brisson-Boivin, et al. (2022) Young Canadians in a Wireless World, Phase IV: Life Online.

[4] Spicer, S. G., Fullwood, C., Close, J., Nicklin, L. L., Lloyd, J., & Lloyd, H. (2022). Loot boxes and problem gambling: Investigating the “gateway hypothesis”. Addictive Behaviors, 131, 107327.

[5] Oldham, A. (2021) How to talk about financially manipulative games (without instigating a media panic). Happy. Retrieved from

[6] Wiebe, J., & Falkowski-Ham, A. (2003). Understanding the Audience: The Key to Preventing Youth Gambling Problems. Responsible Gambling Council.