September always has a way of sneaking up on us! The back-to-school season is in full swing, with kids, teens and college students heading back to class. It can be an exciting time, as well as a stressful one. As you get ready to help your child go back to school, make time to talk with your child about developing healthy habits and help them to steer clear of problem gambling.
Why is this so important? You might be surprised to learn that problem gambling doesn’t only affect adults.
In fact, studies have shown that children who are introduced to and begin gambling by age 12 are four times more likely to become problem gamblers, and in high school, 90 percent of the students surveyed had gambled at least once in the last 12 months.
Underage (and Illegal) Gambling
But how? Isn’t gambling illegal for those younger than 18?
The short answer is yes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always stop children and teenagers under the age of 18 from accessing gambling opportunities. From innocent bets placed between family members or classmates to buying scratch-offs without being asked for ID, or even using a false age to gamble online, young people have more chances to gamble than you may think.
Problem Gambling Triggers & Warning Signs
While the occasional bet may seem okay, gambling can escalate and become a severe distraction for youth of all ages who should be focused on classwork, friends, family and after school activities. Several factors may come into play in causing youth to develop a gambling problem:
- Stress or anxiety from school, looking for an escape
- Unwinding after school with online games
- Making extra cash; perceive it as “easy money”
- Wanting to connect with new friends, gambling is “something to do”
These triggers can lead to problem gambling, whose warning signs include:
- Frequently asking for money and being unable to tell where it was spent
- Getting home late, hesitant to explain where they were or who they were with
- Increased time online playing games of chance
- Selling their belongings, or noticeable valuables missing from your home
As parents and guardians, it’s important to help our children work through some of these issues that can lead to problems such as gambling addiction. The start of the new school year is a perfect time to work on healthy habits and building positive networks.
Identify Goals and Aspirations
Talk to your child about their goals for the new school year. They don’t have to be strictly academic. Maybe they’re hoping to learn how to play guitar or save money for a fun trip next summer. Help them develop a plan to reach these goals, and share in their excitement for getting started! Having something meaningful to work toward throughout the year is a great way for kids and teens to stay on track and channel their energy into a positive outcome for themselves. In doing so, you also help them develop their time management and organizational skills.
Encourage Hobbies and Positive Social Networks
When kids and teens have something to look forward to outside of school, it can ease some of the stress they might be experiencing. Ask about their interests, and help them to pursue their hobbies, within your means. While you can’t pick their friends, you can stay in the loop by asking how certain friends are doing, showing interest in your child’s social life. If your child knows that you don’t know his or her friends, it can be easier for them to forego who they’re spending their time with when they aren’t at home, or if they’re experiencing problems with their friendships.
Teach Them to Budget
Another way to enhance your child’s skills and alleviate some of the problems that trigger problem gambling and other addictions is to teach them how to budget their money (as age-appropriate). Learning to track spending habits can go a long way in preventing kids and teens from spending their money on things that may set them back from achieving their goals. A great way to share some of this knowledge is by allowing your child to help budget their back-to-school shopping.
Educate Them About Gambling
Talk to your children about gambling, and how it can affect people differently. Remind children that it’s illegal to gamble before they turn 18, and explain the consequences that can occur when someone places a bet or loses a gamble that they can’t afford. Teach them about the low probability of winning from lottery tickets, scratch-offs and other gambling opportunities. For younger children who have less of a grasp on money issues, you can help educate them with videos, posters and worksheets from dontbetyet.com made just for kids.
If you’re concerned that your child or teen may be gambling, you aren’t alone. Help is available. Reach out for help from a counselor, visit our gambling support directory or call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY.