Youth Gambling: What’s the Big Deal?
Know the Facts
- By 12th grade, almost two-thrids of students have tried alcohol.
- In 2016 alone, approximately 2 million youth ages 12 to 17 were users of illicit drugs.
- Almost 1 in 4 young adults ages 18 to 25 said they were currently using illicit drugs.
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death for youth from ages 10 and 24.
- Substance use as an adolescent or young adult can have long-term effects on a youth’s developing brain.
- According to the American Psychiatric Association, 10% to 15% of young people may have significant gambling problems, compared to fewer than 4% of adults.
- Studies have shown that about 8% of adolescents, 12 to 17 years old, can be considered problem gamblers.
- On average, problem gamblers say they began gambling at about 10 years of age.
- Does your teen often talk about gambling, or gambling products, or has begun using specialized gambling lingo like “bookies,” “chips,” and “point spread”?
- Do you find your teen is interested in gambling-related conversations and TV shows?
- Have you noticed changes in your teen’s behavior or attitude (e.g. mood swings)?
- Has your teen been experiencing difficulties in school (e.g. loss of interest, lower grades, skipping school)
- Have they had unexplained absences from school?
- Do you suspect your teen has been lying to you about his or her activities?
- Has your teen been asking for more money for lunch and transportation or other personal expenses?
- Is your teen displaying large amounts of money or other material possessions which cannot be accounted for by his or her regular income?
- Have you noticed money or valuable objects missing from your house?
- Is your teen experiencing problems with other family members, or with their friends?
- Is your teen familiar with Internet gambling web sites?
- Talk to your adolescent about the risks of gambling and problem gambling.
- Model appropriate responsible behavior related to gambling and monitor your adolescent’s computer and cellphone use.
- Strengthen important relationships for the adolescent, such as the parent–child relationship, as well as relationships with extended family, friends and other key adults.
- Get help for mental health and substance use concerns, as well as for problem gambling.
Teen years are an amazing time for many reasons. While it is a time for developing interests and taking healthy risks, it’s also a time for the brain to develop. Did you know that your brain health can affect the health of your entire body? The overall health and well-being of an individual is impacted by positive childhood experiences that help the brain develop in a healthy way. That means that it is important for children and teenagers to experience healthy relationships with adults and peers, to feel safe in their schools, neighborhoods and communities and build resilience by developing healthy coping and decision-making skills. All these experiences help the brain develop in a healthy way, which will help the immune system and the nervous system develop in healthy ways too.
Research tells us the mental and physical health will be better across the lifespan when children and teenagers are exposed to healthy environments. Risk-taking is important to understand for this age group, because teens and young adults are far more eager to accept risk than adults are, which can result in youths engaging in high-risk behaviors, such as gambling, nicotine use, alcohol use and illegal drug use. Research indicates youths who are gambling by the age of 12 are four times more likely to become problem gamblers. Adolescence is a time of increased vulnerability when it comes to addictions.
Adults can help teens and young adults learn how to apply reasonable caution to those decisions, because learning to take healthy risks and make good decisions is an important skill to develop early in life.
Gambling Expansion and Cultural Acceptance
The United States is experiencing the largest expansion of legalized gambling in its history. Operators are providing more forms of online gambling and converging with the gaming industry, making gambling more accessible than ever before. This is known as “gambling expansion.” Because of this expansion, parents and friends of young gamblers often have little to no awareness that gambling can become an addiction, making the risk of addiction without treatment increase as well.