Parents: Talk to Teens about underage gambling! Posted On

There are so many things that parents tell teens to be aware of, from crossing the street safely, to avoiding addictive behaviors.  For the third week in Problem Gambling Awareness Month, the focus is  on parents talking with their youth about the risks of underage gambling.

The teenage years are a time of great change and development. This is a time they are beginning to individualize themselves from family and friends.  They are exploring the world to find out who they are, and how they’ll fit in as an adult.  Although this may be a challenging time for parents, it’s an especially challenging time for youth, which is why teens often rebel.  They may not be intentionally rebellious, but instead are trying to identify who they are as individuals.  

There is no stronger influence in a youth’s life than the voice of a loving, caring parent.

Parents, talk to teens about underage gambling!

There are many influences on a teenager including their peers and the media, but there is no stronger influence in a youth’s life than the voice of a loving, caring parent.  Although the teenage years are an especially challenging time for everyone, it is still a great time to let teens know your opposition to underage gambling because of the inherent risks involved.  Even if they decide to gamble, they’ll still have their parent’s voice in the back of their head trying to guide them.  

Risks for teens who gamble:

  • Poor coping skills
  • Lower self-esteem
  • Higher rates of depression
  • Increased risk for developing gambling addiction (and other addictions like substance abuse).
  • At a heightened risk for suicide ideation and suicide attempts.

The thought of having a conversation with a teen about anything may feel stressful, or seem like it needs to be a structured, but it doesn’t need to be that way.  You can spark a conversation during a teachable moment, such as a gambling commercial, news story, or a TV show with gambling imagery. You can also use the tips below to have successful conversations with youth about underage gambling, or any other topics you may have in mind.

Tips for successful conversation:

  • Have open conversations.  Every day try to have open conversations about their day, their lives, and their peers.  Find out what’s important to them and focus conversations on those topics.  The more they feel like you care about what’s important to them, the more comfortable they’ll feel to share things with you.  You can find more conversation tips at
  • Be non-judgemental.  Teens are going to make choices that you may not agree with.  It is in their nature to explore and press boundaries.  Again, they are trying to identify who they are, and testing the boundaries is a way to find out what does and doesn’t bring them joy in life.  Try not to take their exploration as a personal insult, but as a quest for their identity.
  • Be stealthy.  As you talk with your teen about their life, ask questions that may not seem too direct.  If they feel interrogated, they’re more likely to hold back information.  If they feel like you’re asking because you care, they’re more likely to share information about themselves.  
  • Show genuine interested.  Everyone needs to feel loved and important.  Expressing genuine interest in your teen is a great way to help them know that although they’re exploring their world and may be testing boundaries, they are still loved.  

If you feel that your teens gambling has become a problem, please call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY (or 1-877-846-7369).  You’ll be greeted by a welcoming, trained clinician who is ready to help you identify the type of help you’re looking for and locate available locations in your region.