Gambling: The Risky Behavior You Should Talk to Your Teen About and How To Tackle It
The rise of legalized gambling is risky business for teens. Tackle tough conversations around gambling and responsible play with these tips and conversation starters for children 14 – 18
Teens live in a society today where not only is gambling widely accessible, it’s promoted regularly and glamorized in the media. There’s a constant barrage of TV commercials and online ads that play up the notion that you can make lots of money fast. Gambling is now widely promoted by celebrities and influencers on TV, Tiktok and other social media channels. Like other risk behaviors, the dangers associated are rarely shown or understood. Because gambling is so popular, teenagers often try out different gambling activities like poker, scratch cards, and sports betting–long before they can legally gamble.
Recent research estimates that 60-80% of high school students report having gambled for money in the past year. Of this percentage, 4-6% are at risk of developing a serious gambling problem. While the majority of teens gamble occasionally on sports or for fun in a card game with little risk, some will develop serious problems. Boys are more likely than girls to gamble and experience gambling problems.
Teens are two to four times more susceptible to developing gambling problems than adults as during these years,the parts of the brain needed to make sound, reasonable decisions and to inhibit thrill seeking through potentially risky behavior, are not fully developed. This makes teens prone to spending more than they should and making riskier bets.
We all know what it’s like to be at that age. The last thing we wanted was a parent telling us what to do. And, it’s often easier to just let them have a poker night with their friends or place a small wager on their favorite team than explaining the potential risks associated. However, having the conversation to share the potential dangers and monitoring their behaviors can keep the focus on fun and risks at bay.
Talk and tips
For children 14 – 18
Let them teach you about their interests:
Like your teen’s other interests and activities, you want to get involved. Ask questions. What about gambling is fun to them? What do they plan to bet on? What are they wagering and how did they come up with that amount? Try to ask questions out of curiosity and not respond with judgment so that you can keep the conversation going.
Educate them about risks:
Explain that gambling socially isn’t inherently a bad thing, but like everything else, needs to be engaged in a balanced and responsible way. Talk about how gambling leads to far more losses than wins, and the consequences of betting and losing money. Create spending limits together and share how making informed decisions can help mitigate problematic behavior.
Lead by example:
Teens learn from their parents and their peers. Don’t assume you don’t have influence. Be mindful of the types of activities you’re engaging in and thus, modeling to your children, including spending habits, participating in sport betting or purchasing lottery tickets. Talk about the wins and your more frequent losses and how this might change your decision to engage or your behavior next time.