Talking to Your Child About Problem Gambling Posted On

As a parent, there are multiple talks we prepare ourselves to have as our children reach their adolescent years. From conversations about relationships, safe sex and drug avoidance to dealing with high school bullies and learning to budget their first jobs’ wages, your children look to you as a resource to help guide them safely through difficult teenage years.

It may not be the most obvious conversation to have – it’s not part of “the birds and the bees” – but a conversation about the potential consequences of gambling is just as important.

Will your child use his lunch money in a game of cards at the cafeteria table? Will he do it once or twice, or every day?

Does your young daughter appear to be older than she is (maybe 18?) and could she be using her allowance to buy lottery tickets?

Underage Problem Gambling: The Statistics

Gambling can begin as innocent fun amongst friends. And for many people, that’s all gambling ever is. According to the 2006 OASAS School Survey, 48 percent of 7th-12th graders reported they’d gambled in the past year.

But for many teenagers, their gambling behavior becomes more troubling. According to the same survey, 10 percent of adolescents in New York State have had problems due to gambling and another 10 percent are at risk.

And since 2006? Internet gambling has been on the rise, as has the access teenagers have to laptops, cell phones and tablets with internet capabilities.

A study released by the Pew Research Center in March 2013 pointed out a number of fascinating Internet usage statistics of by teenagers. Did you know:

• 95 percent of teenagers use the Internet
• 74 percent of teenagers use phones and tablets to access the internet, with 25 percent accessing the internet mostly using their phone

While your child may not have access to the funds required to join the major Internet gambling sites, they are bombarded by advertisements, content and free versions of traditional gambling games glorifying the thrill of the gambling win so many people seek.

And then, our children are taking to gambling when and where they can, with the money they have access to.

So talk to them.

How to Address Problem Gambling with Your Child

Explain to your child that gambles result in losses far more often than wins. That saving their money for purchases they desire to make is better than risking it all for a slim chance at winning more. That small amounts of gambling can lead to larger gambling addictions.

Explain to them that underage gambling is illegal. That they cannot buy their own lottery tickets, or place bets at the racetrack with their own money. That their aunts and uncles are discouraged from giving them lottery tickets for their birthdays and that you will make the family’s decisions about what school raffles and charity contests you will enter on behalf of the child and family.

Encourage healthy spending. Make a plan with your child. Do they have income from an after-school job, or an allowance? What goals are they saving toward? How much should they feel comfortable to spend each week on entertainment, food or other special activities?

With a healthy conversation about financial responsibility and the exciting things that can come from properly budgeting, you can help your child avoid losing their money and other possessions to gambling. A watchful eye on your child’s spending habits and social activities, as well as any noticeable attitude or behavioral changes, will also help keep gambling activities from becoming a devastating issue for your child and your family.

Worried About Your Child’s Gambling?

Maybe you’ve had the talk, but you’re still concerned. Know the signs of underage gambling. Visit KnowTheOdd’s Understanding Problem Gambling ebook’s Section 4 to find a list of 12 questions to ask yourself about the adolescent you are concerned about. Our ebook provides plenty of additional problem gambling information, including demographics, causes and where to seek help in New York State.

As always, help is available 24/7 by phone. Call 1-877-8-HOPENY if you need help ending your own gambling or the gambling of someone you know.


Linda Gerardi

What a great overview of how to speak to your child about gambling! Thank you.


Thank you, Linda! So many times we forget to have these important conversations with our kids. But The Talk about gambling is just as important as many of those other milestone talks we have with our children.

Comments are closed.