Twitter Worst Platform for Kids to Spot Gambling Adverts

  • Children with Twitter accounts are being exposed to gambling ads online
  • Researchers' fake social media avatars revealed increasing ad visibility to children
  • Gambling operators have been slammed as "irresponsible"
child looking at a computer screen with the words social media
Online operators have been criticized for not doing enough to shield children from gambling adverts.

What the study reveals

The UK Gambling Commission has been incredibly hot on children’s access to gambling adverts in the UK, fining companies that breach these regulations in record amounts. But new research by polling company Ipsos Mori reveals that some children are gaining access to gambling advertising on social media.

Children sharing gambling content

The research revealed that an estimated 41,000 children under the age of 16 follow gambling-related accounts online, mostly on Twitter. Here, children were found to have replied to or retweeted content an additional 13,000 times.

All the while, gambling-related advertising has increased by as much as 24% between the years 2015 and 2019. The total spend sits at around £329m ($410m) a year.

This has led critics to brand operators as “irresponsible”. They also claim that, while adverts are not specifically targeted at children, not enough is being done to stop them from seeing or engaging with the content.

Rise in child gambling

The study follows recent reports of a rise in problem gambling among children, with as much as 50,000 underage individuals recognized as partaking in online gaming.

Operators have responded by promising to invest in addiction treatment. They’re also looking to reduce adverts on TV or to schedule them at different times.

What this latest research highlights as a cause for concern is that children are not shielded from viewing online gambling ads by operators who are running social media accounts.

Fake profiles

Researchers at Ipsos Mori created 11 fake social media user profiles of underage children and gamblers with addiction problems, which were based on browsing history. They observed that the avatar of a child under 13 was bombarded with more online gambling adverts per month than others, including that of an adult with a gambling problem.

The report said,

Content which may appeal to children and young people was found in 11% of mainstream media gambling adverts and 59% of eSports gambling content on Twitter.”

Responsible gambling messages were found to be scarce, especially on Twitter. Of 888,745 tweets analyzed over nine months in 2018, the researchers found that only 7% contained a responsible gambling message.

Research ongoing

The statistics obtained will form part of a longer study being conducted by UK charity GambleAware, which focuses on the impact gambling adverts have on children.

The Labour Party deputy leader, Tom Watson, was quick to comment on the initial findings of the research, saying:

It’s no wonder we have so many children gambling when irresponsible gambling companies are placing adverts that appeal to kids. The explosion of gambling advertising in recent years is fueling problem gambling. If we are going to tackle addiction we need to start by tackling adverts.”

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