This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Youth gambling is a concern for many parents especially with the increasing presence of gambling in sports and online. There may be one person suffering from gambling in every high school class.
Ideally young people won’t gamble at all, if they do sometimes it can become a serious issue which may result in depression, missing school or dropping out, undermined friendships, family disruption and criminal behaviour.
Young people can be vulnerable to problem gambling because they:
- can be impulsive
- might not understand the risks
- can be influenced by media and advertising
- are inquisitive and think they can win
- are digitally savvy using smart phones, tablets, apps and the internet 24/7. In doing so they may try and get around legal barriers to online gaming or gambling sites.
What signs should I be looking for?
- If you are experiencing some of the following signs from a young person that you are concerned about you may want to speak to one of our counsellors about ways to access some support:short of money all the time and spending less on other things like clothes, movies and music
- struggling at school or work, have they had a drop in their grades or are consistently getting in trouble
- displaying changes in mood, perhaps they are withdrawing from friends, social activities or events
- sleeping differently, have their patterns changed or are they more tired than usual
- irritable when they are away from gambling activities
- being secretive about gambling, and denying that there’s a problem, or
- talking about sports and other events only in terms of the odds.
Risk factors for youth gambling
A young person may be more at risk if they:
- Have a large gambling win, especially early on
- Are experiencing stress – this may relate to things like family pressure, personal problems, relationship issues or school conflict
- Have poor support, coping skills or problem solving skills
- Have significant people in their life who gamble
Do not despair!
There is lots of support available and there are some proactive things you can try to minimise the possibility of gambling becoming a problem. This could include encouraging a close social network who do not gamble and getting them to engage in recreational interests such as sports, art, movies or outdoor activities
Also try to build a strong support network for them and make sure they understand that people are there to help them. This can include people such as family, friends, teachers, community or religious leaders, school counsellors or even your local GP.
Remember that kids are always watching and observing. Young people are more likely to gamble if they observe their family members gambling, or they hear their family members talking excitedly about gambling. Think about how you talk about gambling.
Concerned – what can I do?
If you are concerned about a young person’s gambling you can seek professional help through NSW Gambling Help services, face to face, by phone or online. These are free services that are available nation-wide phone: 1800 858 858 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Some things that you can consider trying if you are concerned about a young person’s gambling:
- Limit pocket money. Where possible use vouchers or even pre buy tickets to things so that they attend activities.
- Restrict credit card access; keep them somewhere you can keep an eye on.
- Talk to other parents or your local GP.
- Have a discussion about how gambling works, try to emphasise that it is a form of entertainment and not a good way to make money. Talk about some of the risks of gambling.
You may also like to read the booklet for parents dealing with their gambling (3.4MB PDF).