Most people enjoy group activities and teens more than most. Playing cards and watching sports may be part of many young people’s social time. With the advent of World Series poker, audiences can now enjoy watching others play cards. The combination of broadcast poker and online poker as well as the rise in gambling on sporting events, has created ideal conditions for a renewed interest in at-home gambling and teens are part of the viewing public showing a heightened interest in gambling. Among teens, gambling can be a social activity, but there is a real danger that it can also be more than that.
Social gambling is the kind of gambling that happens when kids get together just to have fun with friends. A bunch of teens decide to play some poker after watching a DVD together. When gambling is purely social teens come with a fixed amount of cash to spend. Once the money disappears, the social gambler is finished.
Since they are playing just to have fun, whether they win or lose is secondary. The social gambler is not interested in playing for large amounts. He or she is most interested in being with friends and is willing to spend a small, not a large, amount of money for that fun.
But some estimates suggest that for five to 10 percent of teens, gambling becomes a compulsion. In fact, these reports say that teens are two times more likely than adults to form a problem with gambling. Compulsive, or pathological, gambling affects more boys than girls but as the pastime grows in popularity, more and more girls are also finding themselves enmeshed in an addiction to gambling.
Opposite of the social gambler, the compulsive gambler plays for the thrill and exhilaration of gambling itself, more than for the social aspect. The teen that has become addicted to gambling comes to a game with cash in his pocket, but he doesn’t hesitate to ask others for money in order to continue playing. In fact, the teen will go to great lengths in order to remain in play.
The compulsive gambler is not content to enjoy small games with small rewards. This teen always wants to go after the ‘big win’. And playing with friends in the basement is not enough either. This teen participates in Internet gambling and doesn’t mind using a credit card to support his/her habit.
Gambling Addiction Signs
Parents may suspect that a teen is a compulsive or addicted gambler if they observe the following:
- The teen begins selling personal possessions
- They borrow money without repaying
- They begin to steal
- The teen has large amounts of cash but won’t say where it came from
- They are telling lies about where they’ve been and what they’ve been doing
- They have unexplained debt
- There are suddenly calls from strangers
- The teen begins to pull back from his/her normal social life
- Phone records show calls placed to ‘900’ numbers and/or visits to online gambling sites in internet history
- More than normal challenges to family rules
- Spends lots of time online gambling
- Seems overly attentive to sports scores
What Parents Can Do To Prevent Gambling Addiction In Their Teens
With teens home for the summer it can be hard to monitor all of these things, but parents need to be aware. The very best prevention is supervision and parental involvement. Parents needn’t make gambling taboo. Gambling once in a while with friends can be fun. It is fine to host occasional friendly poker games at home.
But there are serious consequences when a fun game becomes a compulsion and a pathological behavior. Kids should be warned plainly that addiction to gambling will exact a heavy price. Addiction takes people away from loving family relationships; it creates a cycle of continual money problems and eventually harms school work and, later on, career work. Mounting debts lead to other bad decisions in order to cover those debts and hide them from loved one.
The problem of pathological gambling is not only an adult problem. It is not only a male problem. Parents should be aware that it could be happening in their home and be prepared to intervene.
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