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What are the odds your teen is gambling?

(Published March 11, 2022)

Between friends at school, images on television, or interactions with relatives, it’s relatively easy for your child to be introduced to gambling. A cousin hands your child a scratch-off ticket at a family holiday gathering. Your high school student heads out on a Friday night to play penny poker with his friends. You hand your phone to your child who plays a game that challenges her to beat more levels and earn more fake coins.

Studies show that children exposed to and begin gambling by age 12 are four times more likely to struggle with compulsive gambling when they are older. While it may seem early to think about your child and gambling, some children start as young as 10 years old and most have gambled by the age of 15. The 2018 Iowa Youth Survey noted 17 percent of 6th grade students had bet or gambled for money or possessions. In addition, that number dramatically increases to 27 percent by the time they are in eighth grade. If you suspect your child, teenager or college student is gambling excessively, it is worth taking a closer look.

Here are signs that they may be struggling with gambling:

● Asking for/borrowing money from family and friends ● Behavior change (distracted, moody, sad, worried, etc.)

● Bragging about winning

● Have gambling “stuff” (poker books, betting sheets, etc.)

● Decrease in school performance or grades

● Intense interest in gambling conversations

● Less involvement with usual activities

● Missing money or valuables

● Lying, cheating, or stealing in school

● Playing gambling-type games on the Internet

● Selling personal belongings

● Unexplained debts or extra cash/possessions

● Unexplained time away from home, work, or school

● Unusual amounts of time spent watching or checking sports scores and statistics, or playing poker games or other casino-style apps

● Using gambling “lingo” in his/her conversation (e.g., flop, call, bookie, point spread, etc.)

● Withdrawing from friends and family

As parents, you have the power to make a difference. Become educated and help your child learn about gambling - what it is, how it works and the risks of placing bets. The next time you see a news report about someone winning the lottery, take the opportunity to talk about the reality of chance. Having conversations with your children about gambling, what gambling is, and the true odds of winning provides them with information to make a better decision when faced with choices about gambling. If any of the above signs are affecting a young person you know, contact Your Life Iowa. Give us a call, or text to chat, 24/7. There are compassionate counselors on the other end who are ready to support you.