Most parents understand the importance of talking to their children about drug and alcohol use and helping them to understand the dangers of abusing addictive substances. But fewer parents feel that it is important to have a serious conversation about the risk of gambling addiction. Problem gambling is not as high-profile a concern as alcohol or drug use, but it is still a serious problem, and one that has been increasing among high school-aged teenagers.
The rise of the Internet transformed the world of gambling and opened doors to teenagers and even preteens that were not available before. Long gone are the days when gambling was mostly seen at race tracks, casinos, bingo parlors and other in-person venues. The modern gambling industry generates the majority of its revenue online.
As overall gambling has been on the rise, so has problem gambling and pathological gambling. Teenagers are one of the most affected groups: the Gambling Disorders Clinic at Columbia University has reported that problem gambling rates among teenagers are between two and four times higher than problem gambling rates among adults. Furthermore, the Annenburg Public Policy Center released a study in 2010 that showed around half a million high school students visit gambling sites each month.
New Ways To Access Gambling
Part of the problem is access; the Internet is making gambling available to practically anyone—both at home and on the go—through mobile devices. This format makes it much easier for teenagers to bypass the age requirements that generally prevent them from gambling in person.
In addition to many hundreds of online gambling sites available, gambling is also becoming a stronger presence on social media. There are an ever-increasing number of gambling applications on Facebook, including virtual slot machines and lottery tickets. In the past, all of these types of applications have employed Facebook credits, so that—although the credits cost money—you were not technically gambling with real currency. However, Facebook launched its first real-money gambling application in 2013, which was made available to users in the United Kingdom.
Access to a form of online payment is still a barrier for some young people, since most of them do not yet have credit cards. However, more and more teenagers now have debit cards that link directly to their checking accounts, and they are also able to use services like PayPal to make payments from their bank accounts.
Despite the fact that gambling addiction is recognized as a genuine disorder, in the United States it is more available now than at any point in history. As of 2006, some form of gambling was legal in every state except Utah and Hawaii, even if only in the form of a state-sponsored lottery. And while it may be illegal in those two states, online gambling is still readily available anywhere.
The National Council on Problem Gambling has reported that gambling is one of the fastest-growing industries of the 21st century, and is now worth about $100 billion per year. An article in the Harvard Mental Health Letter estimated that more Americans engage in some form of gambling each year than attend baseball games or go to the movies.
Gambling Has Become More Culturally Acceptable
There is also a growing sense of cultural acceptability surrounding gambling, which certainly doesn’t exist for illegal drugs (although it arguably does for alcohol use). From government-sponsored gambling like state lotteries to events like March Madness where it’s is almost expected, it is easier than ever for young people to become inducted into the world of gambling through such seemingly innocent activities.
Of course, the vast majority of people can and will place March Madness bets, buy lottery tickets, or engage in other common forms of gambling without problems. However, the Gambling Disorders Clinic warns that young people are more susceptible to the excitement of these activities, while also being less experienced when it comes to managing money. These factors put teenagers at greater risk of developing problematic gambling behaviors once they have begun.
If You or a Loved One is Struggling with Gambling, Call a Right Step Rehab Advisor Now!