Children and the Effects of Compulsive Gambling
Parents, teachers, counselors and guardians of children take note, there appears to be a dangerous trend taking place with children and teens all over the world that is directly related to a specific addiction we know as compulsive gambling.
With the ease of access to the Internet and other types of electronic devices, credit cards, casinos, and ridiculously high allowances, kids are mainstreaming faster into an adult world that is by all accounts very dangerous indeed to their futures. Teens and young adults gamble for many of the same reasons that adults find stimulating.
By betting on games of chance such as buying raffle tickets, lotteries, scratch tickets, sports betting, horse races, dog races, and even daring someone for something of value, kids like their adult counterparts, develop a liking for the thrill or “rush” produced by winning.
Teens find gambling to be entertaining and a fun social activity at the beginning of their lives. Families play games together such as Monopoly and various card games and today, with the myriad of computer games available, kids have more options than ever to be stimulated through games of chance whether or not they are gambling to win money or prizes. Kids of every generation have dared each other to do things, raced each other, and even had contest at school for prizes.
It is when the thrill of winning gets out of control and obsessive behavior takes over their daily lives that teens end up in a “no win” vicious cycle. Each generation of youngsters find a variety of fun activities to take part in. The arcade games that were popular in the 80s and before have now moved into the realm of playstations and video gaming consoles. The pinball machines, pool tables, and bowling lanes and other games of skill that used to require more of a social atmosphere, can now be played alone on electronic devices such as iPads and iPhones.
The process of gaming is more secretive and one on one – just your child and the machine with a nice little reward at the end of the game. It may remind adults of another arcade item: the live chicken inside a glass cage who pecks at a pretend piano to receive some grains of corn as a reward. It is considered a scientific fact that intense feelings release chemicals in the brain called dopamine and endorphins.
These chemicals give people an instant feeling of happiness when winning occurs, and conversely, an intense feeling of depression and fear when a loss happens.
Teens and children, because of their youth and immaturity, don’t know how to deal with these intense feelings and consequently, they spiral out of control.
Often suicide, mental health issues, and failing in school are the direct result of a gambling addiction. Brain development then, is a key to focus on when thinking about addictive behavior.
Research has also shown that kids are four times as likely to develop a gambling problem if they begin gambling by age 10 or 12.Surveys taken indicate that nearly 70 percent of teens aged 14 to 19 gambled in the past year.
This means that these kids wagered money on any number of betting games! Interestingly, it is boys that are more likely to have a gambling problem than girls.
It is clear that early childhood development and social structure lays the groundwork for positive behaviors of adults. Gambling starts at an early age, but can be directed in positive ways so as not to impact the person into a gambling addiction.How do parents and schools get involved in directing kids in positive ways? First, don’t wait until kids are teenagers to talk to them about gambling and addictive issues involved with it.
Start early and teach them the difference between having fun as a family playing cards or Monopoly, and gambling for real money that they may not be able to afford. Take time to talk about the fact that winning at gambling is unlikely.
Explain that odds are never consistent or favorable – this is why Las Vegas is a place full of money that casinos have racked in and not money that gamblers have won! If you are a teacher, don’t encourage the use of dice, cards, or other games at school that can lead to gambling. Don’t encourage betting on which school may win a football or soccer game, or how many homeruns will be made during a baseball game.
Try not to push raffle ticket sales either. Kids need to know that adult behavior, including gambling, should be for adults and not for children to participate in. Secondly, be on the lookout for some serious signs of a beginning gambling habit.
Is your child talking about gambling too much?
Excessive talking about cards, games, lotteries, and other forms of gambling may be a warning sign for you to take note of. A more dangerous sign is whether or not there are things of value missing from home?
Is there money missing from your handbag or wallet?
Are electronic devices missing from your child’s room or backpack?Another indication of a more subtle kind is if you suspect that there is more time being spent away from home without much explanation from your children.
This may mean that they are hanging out with other kids that may be on the Internet or video gaming consoles and making bets with each other.
It is always better to be safe and ask questions and find out where they are and what they are doing, than to be sorry later.
Be involved without being controlling in the activities your children are participating in.
Know the names of friends and where they live.
Explain to them that it is because you care about them and love them that you want to know what they are up to. Should there be signs of any of the problems mentioned already make sure that you do not misread the signals.
Sometimes these behaviors could indicate other issues with your children and teenagers such as depression, alcohol and drug use.
Be familiar with the normal behavior of your child and keep track of the changes should there be any.
The easiest thing is to know your children well, what their habits are and what their likes and dislikes are.
This requires time and effort and therefore it is also the hardest thing to do.
Our lives are busy and hectic with work and all the other necessities of raising a family, but in the long run, your involvement in your children will be the significant difference.
The result will be having happy, healthy, and well-adjusted children that know the difference between good and bad habits of positive living.
Fox News Online: Junior Jackpot: Teen Gambling on the Rise –Wed. May 17, 2006
US Department of Education’s Higher Education Center for Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse and Violence Prevention Harvard School of Public Health
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