Problem or compulsive gambling as some call it, has always been an issue among the adult population. The availability of Internet gambling and online betting sites has served to exacerbate the problem. But even of more concern, is that teenage gambling, once a minor problem for parents, is today a growing phenomena. Unfortunately, it is not unusual today to hear about teens who have become addicted to gambling online.
In a review of 1,300 calls to the National Problem Gambling Helpline for immediate help, 106 clients (8%) reported that their primary problem was internet gambling. The predominant age of these individuals was aged 18-25. Furthermore, a recent study by the Annenberg Foundation found that almost 600,000 youth (aged 14-22) reported gambling on the Internet on a weekly basis.
These numbers are concerning, but not surprising.
Why is it dangerous?
Children and teens are more susceptible to addiction. So exposure to gambling at a young age is particularly risky.
A gambling addiction is not different from an addiction to drugs and alcohol. The potential destructive effects can be devastating to the individual and the family as well as lead to other compulsive behaviors.
The popularity of online poker and the glamorization around it have contributed to making gambling more acceptable and mainstream. Gambling today is normal behavior, even among teens.
20% of problem gamblers try to commit suicide at some point.
Signs of a problem
Experiencing a big win can lead to continued gambling. Keep an eye out.
They spend more and more time gambling in place of other entertainment or hobbies.
There is a change in their academic performance.
They need to borrow money frequently and/or start to exhibit pressure about finances.
You find that money is missing from the house or your wallet.
They start buying new, expensive items without reasonable explanations of the source of the money.
Irritable behavior and mood swings.
Even if you think it is under control, if your child is gambling, talk to them about it. Open communication is the best way to know what is happening and to prevent problems.
If you suspect your teen is hiding an online gambling problem, you can look at their computer and see what sites they are visiting online.
If you decide that your teen should not be permitted to gamble online, you may want to enforce certain Internet rules by installing a Parental Control software.
If you suspect a serious problem, consult with a professional.
If your teen admits to a problem, you use a software solution, such as a web filter to block gambling sites and simply prevent access. In many cases, eliminating the access will be enough to eliminate the problem.