The legal gambling age throughout the United States is 18 or 21. Thus, you may be wondering how child gambling can be a problem. It may be surprising how big the problem of kid and teen gambling is and how free mobile games may impact youth gambling addiction.
Many online games that are allegedly kid-friendly may have gambling themes or content that promote playing for money.
Children gamble for various reasons, such as to escape their daily lives. However, kids can take other steps to relieve stress and boost the immune system when school and home life become overbearing.
One reason that kids may get hooked on gambling is that the brain’s release of the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine makes them feel excited. So, stopping gambling can be difficult when a natural “high” spirals into addiction.
How Kids Get Addicted to Gambling
Before children start gambling, they may get addicted to online or mobile games. The internet and mobile devices make it convenient for children to play their favorite internet game anytime and anywhere.
These games often require minimal skill and contain an element of chance. Such features can keep children’s attention for a long time.
Mobile games may contain harmless themes such as candy prizes and virtual pets, which may seem harmless at first.
Here’s the problem. These games may trigger emotions and excitement that gamblers also experience.
Research shows that the brain’s high production of the neurotransmitter dopamine is connected to greater subjective excitement and gambling activity. Neurotransmitters are signal-sending molecules of the central nervous system (CNS)
The internet and TV can also function as reinforcements that may promote gambling among kids. For example, children may be exposed to gambling ads on TV or online gambling sites.
Kids may start gambling through offline methods such as card games, scratch cards, and lottery tickets.
They may then move on to other more serious gambling forms. For example, children may start betting on horse races or other sports betting, or online casino games.
Kids sometimes gamble by playing in the free “practice mode” of online games. They may see such games as a way to have fun and get rich quickly.
Another factor is that many mobile and online gambling games may look like video games. So children may think that they can beat the odds and win money if they merely improve their gambling skills.
Tips to Help Prevent Youth Gambling Addiction
Here are ways you can help prevent gambling addiction in children:
Explain How Gambling Functions
Older elementary children may be interested in learning about gambling, including their long-term chances of winning.
One theory is that children develop abstract thinking during the formal operational stage, starting around 12 years old.
A method you can use is explaining how astronomical the chances of winning can be. For example, the likelihood of winning a huge lottery jackpot is significantly greater than being hit by lightning during your lifetime.
Another tactic to use is to explain the business side of gambling. For example, Las Vegas casinos stay in business by making more money than they pay out. When gamblers lose bets, gambling companies remain profitable.
Consider Your Family’s Activities and Attitudes
Children may become interested in gambling because they’re exposed to wagering in your household.
For example, if parents gamble, their children may perceive the activity as normal behavior and want to duplicate it.
Suppose they see their parents playing poker machines, betting on football or basketball games, or buying lottery tickets. Kids may want to emulate their parent’s actions. They may see gambling as a way to have fun or make money.
As a parent, you can be a good or bad role model for your children.
Set Family Rules About Screen and Web Use
One way to help reduce the risk of gambling addiction is to set family rules about how your children can use big and small screens and the internet.
Your kids may be more likely to follow the rules if you make them together. However, some rules should be non-negotiable, such as not using your credit card for online gambling.
This opportunity can encourage your children to use digital media for quality screen time, such as educational purposes.
Know the Warning Signs of Gambling Addiction
Kids may gamble for various reasons. For example, they may have home or school problems or feel stressed out or bored.
As a parent, you can watch out for mental health, educational, and social problems. This way, you may be able to prevent gambling problems before they start.
You can also encourage your child to reduce stress through better options like hobbies, sports, and music.
Monitor for Gambling-Related Lifestyle Changes
Situations to look out for include:
- Abrupt changes in the amount of money your kid has
- Taking money from siblings or friends
- Changes in mood or irritability
- Withdrawal from friends and social activities
- Positive attitude toward gambling
- Tiredness and change in sleep patterns
- Dropping grades in school
- Focusing on sports odds instead of the sports themselves
- Denying that there’s a gambling problem
- Preoccupation with video games, gambling sites, TV poker, and gambling apps
- Secrecy about gambling
Explain Why Gambling Isn’t a Viable Vice
If your son or daughter has a gambling problem, they may argue that their bad habit isn’t as bad as others’. Parents can explain that gambling isn’t an excellent alternative to drugs and alcohol, for example.
People can develop an addiction to gambling, like drugs and alcohol. It can also cause financial problems in people’s lives and health problems like obesity due to lack of physical exercise. Hence, it is advisable to give time to weight management as well.
Create a Teachable Moment
You can talk to your child about gambling topics in a positive way. For example, you can give a math lesson by discussing how oddsmakers calculate odds for sports.
Another option is to explain how online companies use ads to entice people to bet on their sites.
As a parent, it’s critical to know the possible risk of your child developing a gambling addiction.
Being a responsible parent includes learning how kids get hooked on gambling, signs of the behavior, and how to talk to kids about the topic. It’s your best bet to prevent youth gambling addiction.
- Minimum legal U.S. gambling age: https://www.casino.org/local/guide/
- Formal operational stage: https://www.simplypsychology.org/formal-operational.html
- Gambling and teenagers: https://raisingchildren.net.au/pre-teens/behaviour/behaviour-questions-issues/gambling
- The science behind gambling: https://www.responsiblegambling.org/for-the-public/about-gambling/the-science-behind-gambling/
- The dangers of youth gambling addiction: https://knowtheodds.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/NYCPG_ebook_YouthGambling_052114.pdf
- Pathological Choice: The Neuroscience of Gambling and Gambling Addiction: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3858640/
- What are your odds of winning the lottery? https://wonderopolis.org/wonder/what-are-your-odds-of-winning-the-lottery
- Signs your child may have a gambling problem: https://www.algamus.org/blog/signs-your-child-has-gambling-problem