How to Prevent Teen Gambling – A Parent’s Guide

Oh, if only teenagers came with instruction manuals…unfortunately, they don’t. That can make life a challenge for parents and caregivers charged with shepherding them into adulthood safely. While we might be prepared to tackle subjects like drug and alcohol use, there’s another behavior that we need to talk with teens about: gambling addiction.

About 2-3% of Americans develop excessive gambling behavior, and research suggests that those who start to gamble earlier in life are at higher risk for developing the most serious gambling addictions. Problem gambling has a direct impact on the gambler and his or her family, affecting everything from the ability to pay next month’s rent to the ability to have lasting relationships.

So how does a parent prevent teen gambling?

  • Have the talk. As parents, we might talk to kids about substance abuse—but sometimes we neglect to warn them about the dangers of excessive gambling. Give your teen the tools he or she needs to make smart decisions by having the conversation. Not sure where to start? Check out Gambling Myths – Are They Getting a Teen You Know in Trouble? or Teen Gambling – Talking Points Parents Need to Know.
  • Don’t make it glamorous.  Most adults understand that gambling is just a game; however, teens’ brains are still growing, so they may not be able to make that distinction.  Put gambling in its proper place—don’t paint it to be an exotic and alluring activity. For example, avoid bragging about your own winnings or casino comps while kids are in earshot. It’s also a good idea to avoid watching televised poker tournaments around children.
  • Be alert for gambling behavior. If your teen frequently organizes sports pools at school or starts playing for money in a buddy’s basement every Friday night, it’s time to have a talk with them. Learn the warning signs of gambling in teens and young adults here.
  • Monitor online activity. Gambling apps and online casinos don’t have robust verification systems to verify a gambler’s age, so be aware of the sites your child is frequenting. It’s true that some apps and sites use pretend money for play; however even the use of pretend money can pull an underage kid into the “thrill” of gambling—potentially grooming him or her for future addiction.
  • Monitor financial statements. It’s very easy for a teen to take a parent’s or grandparent’s credit card and use it to gamble online. Keep an eye on credit card or bank card statements, and talk with your teen about suspicious charges.

The Compass Mark team is here to help. We provide education resources and addiction referrals to families in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA. Contact us at (717) 299-2831 or via the online help form.

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