Be the Game Changer
Your kids listen and watch everything you say and do. When it comes to all risky behaviors, it is particularly important that parents and guardians let their expectations be known about these behaviors, including underage gambling. Our kids see the winning and fun associated with gambling presented on a daily basis whether it is the excitement from winning on a lottery ticket, the winner of the 50/50 raffle, winning a game of bingo, winning at penny poker, etc. A GAME CHANGER makes sure that their child gets the whole story about gambling. What you say could prevent or stop what might appear as an innocent game but for some children, can lead to long-term problems or even addiction.
Why Am I Just Now Hearing About Youth Gambling As a Risky Behavior for Adolescents and Youth As Young As Age 12?
Risks for youth and the number of youth with gambling problems is not something new. What’s new is that Our kids are (same) … Delete the repetition. ADD: Think about it. Lottery commercials are aired at prime times when children could be listening/watching, casino billboards seen on the way to school, pop-up ads on kids’ electronic games urging them to play with money instead of make-believe tokens, stores have prominent signage (sometimes on the front door) about the lottery and other gambling venues at children’s eye level, and variety of media used associated with the casino expansion. Add to that how easy it can be to access lottery tickets, bet on sports teams, pick a horse to win, bet and play games on the Internet – open 24/7 with practice game sites that teach gambling skills and the “thrill of winning”, bet on a card or dice game, etc. Many kids say that it was with family who were unaware of the risks that they first experienced some of these activities.
The Brain and Its Connection to Gambling
The decisions that need to be made and the knowledge needed to gamble requires a fully developed brain. Being able to think through the action and the consequences of the gambling activity are not thought processes that are developed yet. That doesn’t happen until a person is age 24 or 25. Instead, impulsivity takes over and risks are taken. The kinds of decisions to be made while gambling can include:
- When to stop (adolescents are 2-4 times more likely to become addicted to gambling than an adult)
- Can you rely on good luck charms to help you win?
- Does the longer you play result in winning more or losing more?
- Whether to steal mom or dad’s credit card or money to play
- Whether it makes sense to bet more money even if you are losing… because it will lead to winning
- Why drinking and gambling at the same time is not a good idea
- Whether the frequency of gambling is taking over other priorities in their life (friends, grades, sleep, food, sports team/club/group, etc.)
- If gambling is a reliable way to make money
- You are a skilled player and therefore winning has nothing to do with chance
In addition, adolescents and youth naturally are attracted to risk, winning, rewards, competition. There are experts who believe that electronic games and on-line games that youth are legally able to play are preparing them to gamble for money in the future. Many are designed similar to casino games with the same graphics and sounds, teach similar playing skills, provide incentives to play longer or to have friends join the game, and some even encourage and allow underage players to win money, after giving a false sense that the player has the skills to win. They are easily accessible, some portable and available 24 hours a day.
What Can I Do As a Parent?
As parents, you can be the GAME CHANGER by discussing with your child starting at age 9 that there are serious risks related to gambling, especially for youth. Why so early? Because the earlier a person is introduced to gambling, the more likely they are to become problem gamblers. In fact, studies show that children introduced by age 12 are four times more likely to become problem gamblers. This is why adolescence is the time is for parents to become involved. Use the times when you gamble such as when you buy a lottery ticket to talk about odds and chance, budgeting money, the importance of it not developing into a habit, that while it is a fun activity but not something you bet more money than you can afford on. Talk about responsible gambling, risks and how you incorporate that into your decision making when it comes to gambling.
The Risks of Problem Gambling
- Dropping grades
- Loss of friends/family
- Loss of trust & respect
- Depression, anxiety
- Damaged reputation
- Financial issues
- Trouble with the law
There can be warning signs that gambling may be becoming a problem. For more information on warning signs, what you can do, where to get help, the research, and more, please click on RESOURCES.
Problem Gambling Warning Signs
- Sudden mood changes
- Feelings of anxiety
- Strong interest in gambling conversations or use of gambling slang
- Lying, cheating, stealing
- Unexcused school absences
- Less time spent with friends and/or family
- Unexplained loss or gain of money or goods
College Students Are at a High Risk to Become Problem Gamblers
Did you talk to your college student about getting enough to eat, good sleeping habits, not drinking or using tobacco, drugs, and having safe sex? But did you talk about gambling? If you have a child attending college (same for most young adults of the ages of 18-22) you should know that there is an increasing number of college students becoming problem gamblers. Many studies suggest that the rate of this problem among college students is higher than in the adult population – and may be double the rate of the general population. Especially at risk are college athletes, who share two risk factors – being highly competitive and social which can influence the desire to gamble.
Why? It is a time of independence, managing their own finances, lack of supervision by parents and being exposed to at-risk behaviors in a new environment. Other reasons include:
- To make money
- To spend time with friends
- Compete against other students
- Rebel against rules that kept them from gambling when they were younger
- They have a credit card for the first time
- To stand-out by making a name for him/herself with money or new possessions won
- To escape dealing with depression, loneliness or anxiety about classwork, personal problems or homesicknes
What is the result?
College students addicted to gambling are dropping out, running into huge financial difficulties and experiencing addiction due to gambling that they are now legally able to do with little or no interference. It is reported that students use book money, expense money from parents, financial aid, housing money, and will sell personal property to stay in the game. Instead of studying, they are gambling whether with other college students or on-line. It has taken over their life.
BE THE GAME CHANGER and talk to your student about their gambling habits, review credit card bills for gambling charges, be aware of frequent requests for money, ask about new possessions and look for mood and behavior changes.
For more information on warning signs, what you can do, where to get help, the research, and more, please click on resources.
Youth Gambling in Saratoga County
Horses & Animals
Arcade & Video Games
*Internet gambling is a growing problem due to 24/7 availability. It is easily accessible on computers and smart phones, and the popularity of gambling “practice” sites, which are presented as games but are a gateway to gambling, teach youth to gain gambling skills and encourage “real” playing.