For Parents: Talking with Your Kids About Gambling
Relatively high proportions of parents (regardless of whether or not they gamble) believe that gambling is a harmless activity... that youth who gamble are unlikely to have problems in school, and that youth gambling is not associated with alcohol or drug use (Volberg, Hedberg, & Moore, 2008).
When you think about it, kids are exposed to gambling almost every day. All they have to do is walk into a corner store to see people buy lottery tickets, or turn on the TV to see poker tournaments and ads for casinos.
There are three key points that are important for us to understand about teen gambling:
- Teens are only a few years away from being adults who can gamble legally.
- Many teens are already gambling. It may only be a harmless bet of a dollar or two, but it can become a lot more serious.
- Several studies have shown that somewhere between four and eight percent of teenagers develop a gambling problem. (Oregon's study shows six percent.)
So what can you do?
All of the following tips go together. They each build upon one another. As you learn and apply these tips, you'll be surprised at how problem gambling and other topics fit together really well in conversation.
Live by example.
- Remember that, whatever it is we are doing, kids watch what we do.
- Parental gambling is a major risk factor for youth problem gambling. Make sure what you're doing is modeling healthy behavior. Check out the tips for responsible gambling.
- Avoid emphasizing money or winning.
Be aware of the risks.
- Share with kids that gambling isn't risk-free. It's not something that is a "healthy alternative" to alcohol or drug use.
- Even though most kids will never go on to develop a gambling problem, research shows that the earlier in life someone places a bet, the more likely s/he is to develop a gambling problem later in life.
Talk about it.
- It doesn't need to be its own long lecture -- while you're talking about the risks of alcohol and drugs, include gambling. Gambling can be just as addictive.
- Learn the odds and talk about them. It's great math practice!
- If you see an ad for a casino, talk about that ad with your child. Ask him what he thinks about what the ad's trying to tell him. Talk to her about ways that advertisers try to pull us in.
- Talk about the odds being lousy (you don't need to know exact statistics, but it's safe to say the odds are lousy!).
- Keep talking! Like alcohol and drugs, it isn't one conversation that does the trick. Bring it up in casual conversation and keep talking.
Need more info?
We highly recommend a visit to the Anti-Drug website for excellent resources on talking with kids.
Source: The above tips are © Lane County Public Health.