Thousands of online gambling sites have popped up in the past decade, and the number of teenagers who gamble for money has also spiked. Approximately 60 – 80% of high school students gamble for money, and 4 – 7% show signs of a gambling addiction. Kids in high school have twice the rate of gambling problems as adults, and the consequences can be severe: clinical depression, gambling debts that lead to theft, poor grades, and disrupted social relationships.
Teens may gamble compulsively as a way to deal with anxiety, boredom, depression, and stress. Some research suggests that gambling addiction, much like other compulsive behaviors, activates the same brain pathways as drug and alcohol cravings. This is one reason why problem gamblers find it so difficult to control or stop gambling and why they persist in spite of negative consequences.
If you’re concerned that your teen might be gambling too much, you’re not alone!
Though anyone can develop a gambling addiction, studies have revealed some risk factors that can increase susceptibility to a dependency. These factors include:
- Started gambling at a young age
- Being regularly exposed to gambling in the home or with friends
- Private, unrestricted access to the Internet
- Engaging in other risky behavior, such as substance abuse, shoplifting, etc.
- Having an impulsive, excitable, sensation-seeking personality
- Facing personal or familial stress
- Dealing with anxiety or depression
Here are some tips for parents:
- Learn about gambling and educate your children about the signs of problem gambling
- Look for opportunities to discuss the risks and responsibilities of gambling with your kids
- Set limits on screen time and monitor your child’s time and activities online