Yes, there's a right way to talk about gambling with your kids. Here's how.

NSW Government - GambleAware
Thanks to our brand partner, NSW Government - GambleAware

When I was 6, I went to my first professional rugby league game. I watched my brother’s prized Panthers play the mighty Dragons; my footy double firmly clasped in my hand as I prayed that Greg Alexander would score first.

For my 8th birthday, my Nanna gave me a handful of $2 scratchies in a colourful cardboard sleeve with a shiny 20c piece sticky-taped to the front. 

I was 10 when I watched the Melbourne Cup at school on the roll-away TV, cheering along with my classmates as I realised I'd won $4 after my dad let me pick a horse. 

At 13, I felt panic rise in my chest as I watched a man empty his yellow pay packet onto the counter of my local TAB. And on my way home, I told my dad that I hated how he worked for them.

In the years that followed, Keno became a family favourite every time we went to the local Bowling Club for dinner. Then at 16, I first learnt what it meant to be a gambling addict when I asked my parents why pictures of people were stuck on the inside of the TAB’s terminal booths.

It's easy to see that my young life was constantly surrounded by forms of gambling. 

My story isn’t unique. In fact, some would even say that these scenarios reflected what was once an Australian family underpinning of '80s and '90s suburban culture. It was never viewed as a harmful activity, just "something we did". As a kid, I existed alongside gambling and luckily for me, it never followed me into adulthood. In large part, I thank my dad for this. I was exposed to the risks and knew I wanted no part of it.

But unlike me, others do struggle with gambling. They too may have lived alongside gambling, and could have had parents with gambling habits that impacted their upbringing. Back then, such education didn’t exist like it does now.


Now, the focus to reduce gambling harm in young people aged 12 to 17 has intensified. The Office of Responsible Gambling commissioned research on youth gambling in 2020 and again with the NSW Youth Gambling Study 2022. Thanks to this research, as well as my own experience working in cyber safety, I am starkly aware not only the harmful effects that gambling has on our young people, but I also know that if we take the right steps as parents and caregivers, we can reduce our children’s exposure to gambling and help guide their awareness and choices through education and support.

Here's how we start. 

Don’t gamble in front of your kids.

We all have our vices. Whether it's smoking or vaping, speeding or swearing. They’re all things that we should probably not encourage our kids to do. Gambling however, is a different story. 

A 2022 study which looks at the role that parents play in youth gambling, found that 1 in 5 parents gambled with a teenager present, and 2 out of 3 parents who gambled did so with their teenager. It also states that this behaviour increases teenagers' risk of gambling harm. In other words, a parent’s gambling habits influence those of their children.

As innocent as placing the weekly footy tipping selections might feel, this can inform a teen's attitude toward gambling in future. So if you're gambling, it’s best kept away from adolescent eyes.

Have open conversations.

Parents and carers have the most influence on their kid’s attitudes and behaviours, so being willing to have open and honest conversations with them about the risks involved in gambling can help reduce a child’s likelihood of experiencing gambling harm in the future.

Like many of us, when kids are told not to do something... it may entice them to want to try it even more. Instead of taking a 'ust don’t do it' approach, take the time to educate your child on the risks and consequences of gambling. 


Cover the key messages; the chances of winning are low, it can be addictive like drugs and alcohol, it can negatively impact people’s wellbeing, and there's zero shame in seeking help. 

And if you do discover that your child has been gambling, don’t judge them. Take the time to understand, listen and seek the appropriate support.

Keep up to date on video games and social media apps.

The 2022 study revealed that 72.1 per cent of young people who play games with gambling components played them in video games. Although the retro Commodore 64 and SEGA games I played as a kid always had an element of winning, many of today’s video games and apps have players spend real money buying virtual currency for virtual tools, so they can advance further in a video game. 

Young people are using their own, hard-earned money to continue playing games online and in many cases, they’re using their parents' (potentially costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars).

And social media, well, this is a beast I never had to deal with in teenhood. Despite the current conversations around it, it’s not going anywhere, so us parents need to educate ourselves on the many platforms our kids are using and the elements within them that encourage gambling and risk. 

Monitor what they’re watching.

Remember the cigarette branding during footy games when we were kids in the '80s? Well, when studies by the Federal Government revealed the advertising of tobacco was advocating cigarette use and potentially influencing sports fans to take up smoking, the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act 1992 was introduced which outlawed tobacco advertising in sports in Australia.


Now research has found that exposure to gambling advertising in both traditional and digital media influences positive attitudes about gambling, which leads to a higher likelihood of gambling participation.

Ads promoting gambling make it look fun and can create a sense of FOMO, especially when it's positioned as something social with mates. These ads are the perfect opportunities to have micro conversations with your kids, explaining how branding and advertising influence works; that it creates desire by using persuasive language, imagery, and other techniques, influencing people's behaviour. 

Use blocking software.

This might sound extreme, but it’s an incredibly effective way to reduce exposure to gambling opportunities and advertising online. 

Blocking software can prevent access to all online gambling sites, servers and apps in one go so it’s a great way to help stop kids and young people experimenting with gambling online.

There are 2 types of blocking software:

  • General blocking software. This lets you set authorisations or parental controls to prevent or monitor access to a range of websites or apps.
  • Gambling-specific blocking software. These let you block gambling advertising and access to gambling websites. There are a range of options available online at GambleAware.

Before deciding which blocking software is best for your family, take a look at user reviews.

Pay attention to kids' lack of attention.

I was a product of my time. When the games stopped, the scratchies were scratched, and I went to bed at night, that was it. Nothing replayed in my mind, nothing alerted me to more opportunities to win, and nothing followed me home and kept the thrill alive. For today’s young people however, thanks to the rapid increase in mobile device usage and social media, gambling opportunities have the power to literally follow them to bed. 

If your child is waking up of a morning incredibly tired, is short-fused, can’t focus at school and you’re seeing a decrease in their grades and willingness to participate in other activities, it might be time to have a conversation with them. 


These are all classic signs of late night device usage and potential online gambling — and there are steps you can take to alleviate it. First, remove all devices from the bedroom and store them somewhere where they can’t be accessed during times of slumber. Secondly, set boundaries with your child as to when devices can be used and where. Doing this together means they are more likely to adhere to the new rules because they have helped inform them. And thirdly, keep them busy with more positive activities like creative hobbies, sport and social time with friends.

Set boundaries with devices, video games and TVs in bedrooms.

A child’s bedroom used to be a place of sanctuary. The one room in the house where they could go to process and unpack their days with a sense of safety. Those days, however, are long behind us and as parents, we need to do everything in our power to return that safety to them and prevent them from potential harm.

To help reduce exposure to gambling and the pressures from others to engage, limiting the devices like mobile phones, video game consoles, tablets, and TVs in our kids' bedrooms — and committing to usage only in more common areas of the home — can help reduce their exposure to gambling advertising, as well as the lure of in-game opportunities and peer pressure.

Visit GambleAware to help support you in your conversations with children about gambling and its risks. 

GambleAware counsellors are available over the phone right now. For free, confidential advice and support, call GambleAware 24/7 on 1800 858 858.

Feature Image: Getty.

NSW Government - GambleAware
GambleAware is the public facing identity for the work of the Office of Responsible Gambling. It ties together the complete spectrum of work undertaken by the Office, from gambling prevention and education, right through to self-help and the information and support for people experiencing gambling harm run by the GambleAware counselling providers we fund. The Office of Responsible Gambling sits within the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade and leads the development of responsible gambling strategy and public policy advice to the NSW Government.