CHILDREN AND GAMBLING
A recent national study estimated that nearly 70% of Americans age 14-19 years old gambled in the past year. They wagered money on poker, sports, the lottery, and a variety of other games.
Young people gamble nearly as much as adults but play different games. Here are some snapshots of youth gambling:
A 10th grader forms a betting pool for wagers on football
Students play poker on Saturday nights for pennies or for a bigger pot
12 year olds make wagers with friends on video games
WHY DO KIDS GAMBLE:
Young people gamble for some of the same reasons as adults. They want to have fun and win money. Risky and exciting activities often attract teenagers
DO YOUNG PEOPLE HAVE GAMBLING PROBLEMS:
Studies show that anywhere from 2% - 7% of young people experience a gambling addiction compared to about 1% of adults. An estimated 6% - 15% of youth have gambling problems that are less severe, while 2% - 3% of adults fall into that category.
ARE THERE WARNING SIGNS:
The most notable signs of problems among youth are:
a low mood or feelings of anxiety. Young people tell researchers that gambling relieves their sense of helpless or depression. This relationship between psychological problems and excessive gambling is important.
Appearing Pre-occupied. Young people may neglect chores at home and school work.
*Keep in mind, however that all of these behaviors could indicate other difficulties such as alcohol and drug use
WHAT CAN PARENTS DO:
Research shows that parents have the power to make a difference in how their kids respond to risky activities. When asked most children say their mother or father is the person they respect the most.
1. Bring it up before your child does. You may worry that you’re putting ideas in your child’s head, but the likelihood is that your kid is already forming attitudes to gambling, without your input. This is especially true if your child is in the teenage years and has more exposure and/or access to gambling through digital devices, social media and interaction with their friends.
2. Pick your moment(s). If your child is engrossed in something, it’s probably not be the right time to talk about gambling. Kids can smell a lecture a mile off so grab opportunities as they arise – perhaps in the car on the way to school or sport practice, or when a gambling ad comes on TV. Don’t feel you have to cover everything in one chat either. The most important thing is to let your child know that the topic is on the table, and that they can talk to you about gambling at any time.
3. Be a good role model. If your child is regularly exposed to you or other family members gambling, it sends a message that gambling is a harmless, risk-free activity. You’ll also be much less likely to be taken seriously… as you know, children are good at noticing if what you say doesn’t match what you do!
4. Cover a few basics. Talk about what you love about sport, and make sure your child knows that sport and gambling don’t have to go together. Help your child understand that gambling companies are in business to make money from customers, and that the chances of winning are limited. Discuss the things that can influence attitudes to gambling. For instance, you could talk about the blurred line between gaming and gambling, and how technology has made it easier to gamble. Point out gambling is risky and can cause harm. You don’t have to get too heavy – perhaps just talk about the immediate consequences, like not having spending money for other things your child may want.
5. Back up words with action. Manage access to your money. Are your credit or debit cards linked to accounts your children access, such as those for downloading music? Virtual gaming and gambling websites regularly offer purchased credits or rewards and it's not always obvious that these purchases relate to real money. Enforce rules around internet use. Create a screen-time plan, locate devices in a shared or visible place in the home, filter access with safe internet searching settings, or install software to block gambling sites.
(Statistics and some information comes from National Center for Responsible Gambling. www.ncrg.org)