Do online games increase the risk of childhood gambling?

Written by Dr. Andrew Doan & Brooke Strickland on .

If you thought online games are an innocent way to kill time, think again. If they’re used in excess, especially when it’s children that are playing too much, there are serious negative repercussions. 

Professor Mark Griffiths, director of the International Gaming Research Unit, based at Nottingham Trent University, said large numbers of children under age 16 were becoming addicted to games that are accessed through social media websites.

Many sites have free online poker games with virtual money that lure kids in, or they give users a free introductory game session with no age restrictions. Griffiths urges people to be aware that there is danger in games that require real-life money to acquire virtual points, accessories, or other items. In addition, online poker playing by underage children is being investigated after research from Ofcom, a broadcast regulator in the U.K., found that children between the ages four and fifteen had been exposed to gambling advertisements up to 473 times in a one year period. Professor Griffiths gathered information via a survey to over 2,700 secondary school students and found that approximately 15% of them had played free gambling games online recently. In addition, Gamble Aware said that 2% of people between the ages of 11 and 15 (that’s an equivalent of 60,000 in England alone) had trouble controlling their gambling behavior. (1)

Online games can be very destructive, especially when kids are playing them during all of their spare time. Their developing minds are highly moldable and absorb more than you might think. Monitor your child’s screen time. Block harmful sites and be sure that they are following your rules –not theirs– when it comes to internet use. Moderation is the key here. Games in and of themselves are not bad – but when the games become a distraction and are beginning to affect school work or how they are interact socially, it is time to reevaluate. Online gaming, especially online poker addiction is not anything to mess with. Keep your kids’ minds healthy and happy, minus the screen time. 


Paton, Graeme. “Online games fuel rise in childhood gambling addiction.” The Telegraph. January 10, 2014. Accessed online January 13, 2014.

By Brooke Strickland & Andrew Doan, MD PhD