Sixteen million people in the United States have a gambling addiction. Half of those people are teenagers!
Studies show teen problem gambling rates are two to four times the rate of adults. The likelihood that gambling will become a problem for young people is greater if they start early. As a result, kids wind up with problems similar to those seen in adults, like depression and alcohol/drug abuse. At this time of life, teenagers are searching for a sense of identity. They are first drawn to gambling for the excitement and to enhance their self-image. Easy access to computers and online gambling take away barriers to gambling in public. Losses pile up and they may turn to stealing from parents, selling the things they own, or committing crimes so that they can gamble to make a “big score.” These efforts to recover losses fail and this, combined with the blow to self-esteem, can lead to depression. Problem gambling in teens often starts as a consequence of parental approval of gambling. Children see parents engaging in gambling and sometimes even receive lottery tickets as gifts. Online gambling is as close as their computer.
Adolescents who gamble have a higher risk of becoming problem gamblers than adults.
Kids are vulnerable for a lot of reasons:
- Parental approval of gambling
- Social acceptability of gambling
- Peer influence may encourage teen gambling
- Online gambling happens in private, out of sight of parents or other authorities
- Adolescents are impulsive
- Teens have an incomplete sense of who they are, therefore “gambler” is an identity
- Young people believe they are invulnerable
Gambling addiction captures young people and changes the way that they think. A majority of young people in a recent survey believed that their chances of winning are better than 50%. Even if they lose, they believe that “chasing” their losses by continuing to wager money, in an effort to recover their losses, will put them back on top. Online gambling venues make this chase all too easy.
In the society around them, there is little effort made at present to raise awareness of the dangers of gambling among young people or to prevent the growth of gambling.
Signs of gambling addiction (keep in mind that progress from casual to problem gambling is swift):
- Spending an unusual amount of time on the internet
- Decline in school performance
- Asking for or borrowing money
- Intense interest in gambling and conversations about gambling
- Signs of unhappiness and depression: appearing sad, isolating
Tips for parents:
- The same rules apply to gambling as to drugs: Know who your kids spend their time with and what they do
- Make your opinions about gambling clear
- Challenge child’s beliefs that gambling can lead to a ‘big win’
- If your child asks for money, know what it will be spent on
- Block online gambling sites on your child’s computer
- If you believe your child is ‘at risk,’ take him for an evaluation
TREATMENT FOR TEENS AND FAMILIES AT OUR CLINIC IS FREE.