Are you aware of how your teen spends his or her time and money? Pay closer attention, because teens these days are gambling online more than previously believed, a new study has warned.

Researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and University of Waterloo in Canada found that a significantly high proportion of young people nowadays are gambling and in primarily unregulated avenues, raising concerns on how young they’re getting into the habit.

Of all adolescents surveyed, 42 percent reported gambling money offline and online, with dares and challenges, instant-win or scratch tickets, and games of skill as some popular activities. Almost 10 percent of teens from three Canadian provinces, too, said they had gambled online in the last three months.

“Young people who are also gambling online are individuals who are seeking out a range of gambling experiences, which could put them at greater risk for problem gambling,” says first author and CAMH scientist Dr. Tara Elton-Marshall, who warned that technology and increased access has rapidly changed the gambling landscape.

And the earlier people start, the more likely gambling will become an issue later in life, added Elton-Marshall.

According to the study of over 10,000 grade 9th and 12th students, it’s mostly male teens who fall into the trap, with online sports betting as their leading vice. They can also often be found on free poker sites and gambling games on Facebook.

Most adolescents that participated in many gambling forms, except for lottery and scratch ticket use, were not yet of legal age to gamble.

Four provinces in the country, namely – Ontario, British Columbia, Manitoba, and Quebec – have already legalized online gambling.

The findings were published in the journal BMC Public Health.

Studies have linked problem gambling with substance abuse, anxiety, depression, and suicide, although this recent one is the first to employ a problem gambling scale especially created for teens.

Researchers have sounded the alarm not only on this issue but also other potential forms of addiction – Facebook addiction, for instance, where social media use is seen to trigger parts of the brain responsible for the reward system.

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