March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month.
The goal of this campaign is to educate everyone about the warning signs of problem gambling and promote the availability of help and hope both locally and nationally.
It’s true that for most people, gambling is innocent fun; most New Jerseans gamble once in a while and don’t experience many negative consequences. However, a growing number of teens are gambling, and that’s a concern for many.
What type of gambling activities do youth enjoy most? There are the “free” Internet gambling‐type games, various card games, especially poker, sports gambling, and betting on personal skill competitions.
Those of us who work in prevention know, like with alcohol and drugs, that the earlier on in life a person begins to gamble, the more likely that individual is to develop a problem later in life. Which is why parents, educators, and other adults should consider the potential pitfalls of gambling among our youth.
Consider that young people don’t always yet have the best coping or decision-making skills. They also easily hide a gambling problem. And for many, the problem develops over several years. Many problem gamblers say they started out gambling at an early age–approximately 10 years old. Remember. With no needle marks, drowsy walking, bloodshot eyes, or other tell-tale signs, a young person who has a gambling problem can easily hide it.
Why should we be concerned? Authoritative researchers have identified several risk factors for youth problem gaming including (but not limited to):
The general approach to preventing problem gambling among youth is to reduce risk levels by enhancing protective factors, such as family cohesion and connectedness to school, while strengthening their coping abilities and the surrounding environment. This philosophy, while contrary to the traditional approach to drugs of “just say no,” focuses on increasing their resiliency, if they do gamble, and what can be done when they experience difficulty.
Most researchers agree that no one prevention strategy should be used to the exclusion of others, and no one single prevention approach to adolescent drug and alcohol abuse has been found to be uniformly successful. This likely holds true for gambling prevention. However, we can all agree that parents’ role in prevention is paramount.
The first thing parents should do is talk to their children.
Communicating with a child or teen begins with listening. Encouraging conversation about gambling does not mean that you agree with the behavior. In reality, it can help children make informed choices about their own behavior. Also, it is important to be aware that children are more likely to gamble if they observe their family members gambling or hear their family members talking excitedly about gambling. Limiting or eliminating gambling activities in the home and replacing these with non-gambling family activities can help create a fun family environment.
If you think your child is gambling you have many options, including seeking professional help. Here are some general steps to follow: Start by learning all you can about gambling and its risks; Be aware of your own gambling behavior and beliefs; Encourage discussions and questions about gambling; Listen to what your child has to say; Set limits on time, money and frequency of gambling if problems are not severe; and, seek professional assistance if you think the problem is severe. For information and referrals, you can call our offices at 732-254-3344.