How to tell if your child has a gambling problem


Underage gambling is nothing new, unfortunately. Each year more youngsters get involved in gambling activities ranging from bets between friends to actual real-money casino games. This is a very serious issue that must be tackled as soon as possible, which is why looking for signs is utterly important. Find out how you can tell if your child is dealing with a gambling problem, what to do to help, and how to prevent such issues from arising!

The growing problem of underage gambling in the United States

The Cardiff University conducted a study in which it analyzed data from 37,363 children starting from the age of 11 to 16, from 193 secondary schools in Wales. They had to answer questions from a 2017 School Health Research Network Student Health and Wellbeing Survey. The questions ranged from if they had gambled in the past 12 months, what type of gambling they had participated in, and how often they had felt bad about it.

The growing problem of underage gambling in the United States

The research showed that 41% of children aged 11 to 16 have gambled in the past year. Out of this huge number, 84% stated that they had never felt bad about it. Among the most popular forms of gambling chosen by the children were fruit slot machines, playing cards for money with friends or making private bets between friends, but also buying Lotto tickets and scratch cards.

Ipsos MORI conducted another study on behalf of the United States Gambling Commission. This surveyed 1,645 children aged 11-16 from Scotland and England, and it brought the following results:

  • 37% of the respondents have gambled in the past 12 months;
  • 9% of them have spent their own money gambling in the seven days before taking part in the survey;
  • 5% of them placed a private bet for real money, and 3% played cards with friends for money;
  • 51% of the respondents who have ever gambled were with a guardian or a parent the last time they gambled;
  • 58% of them have seen a gambling ad or sponsorship, of which 7% said it made them try gambling even if they were not planning to do so before;
  • 1.9% of the children aged 11 to 16 in England and Scotland are classified as problem gamblers, and 2.7% are at-risk gamblers.

These statistics show how real the danger of gambling addiction is for youngsters and how utterly important it is for parents and guardians to start paying more attention to the activities the children participate in. Let’s see what signs parents should be looking for and what causes children to start gambling!

What are the signs and causes of a gambling issue

Problem gambling is a serious issue for adults, and it is even more difficult and dangerous when it happens to a child. That is why parents must notice the differences in the child’s behaviour and deal with this issue before it develops even further. The earlier the treatment begins, the more chances of success it has.

How to tell if your child is developing a gambling problem

How to tell if your child is developing a gambling problem

Here is what signs can tell you if your child has a gambling problem:

  • Unexpected and unexplained changes in personality and behaviour;
  • The sudden deterioration of school grades and failure to complete assignments or respect deadlines;
  • Unexplained absences from classes;
  • Possession of items of value which they cannot usually afford;
  • Borrowing money or even stealing;
  • Selling personal belongings;
  • Sudden interest in sports scores and magazines or newspapers;
  • Changes in sleep patterns;
  • Irritability or sudden inability to focus;
  • Withdrawing from friends or family.

Depending on the type of gambling the child is participating in, how advanced the problem is, and depending on the child’s personality, the signs may differ. Some may appear and some may not, while you may notice a completely different one in your child. However, these are the most common signs that usually occur with underage gambling.

The presence of one sign in the above list is not a cause for concern. If your child does present half or more, it may be time to look for solutions.

What causes children to start gambling

There are many reasons that may lead youngsters to pick up gambling, and they range from their personality all the way to the people around them.

One of the aspects many underage gamblers have in common is a lack of attention from their parents or guardians. Spending quality time as often as possible with your child contributes to a great childhood and decreases the risk of gambling problems. Children whose parents work long hours or simply don’t have a good parent-child relationship are more prone to start gambling.

However, in some cases, those who start gambling while still underage have a wonderful family life and childhood. In these cases, the parents must take a look at the child’s friends circle. Many have at least one older friend who introduced them to gambling. Sometimes it can even be someone in the family who does not realize the long-term effects of allowing a child to gamble.

How can you help your child overcome problem gambling

If you have noticed half or more of the signs above, it is time to think about solutions. Many times, parents’ first response to this type of problem is to scold the child, which is not a good idea. Children often become defensive, and offering them help might become even more difficult.

It can be very frightening and traumatic for parents to discover their child has a gambling problem, but the first thing that must be done is to have a calm conversation with the child. Find out where it all started and how advanced their implication in such activities is.

What you must keep in mind at all times is that if the child has a problem with gambling, it does not automatically mean they are addicted or close to developing an addiction. However, it is not an issue you should overlook. Here’s how you can help them overcome this problem:

  • Talk to the child about gambling and all its consequences;
  • Show them that you are supportive, calm, and willing to talk to them openly;
  • Offer them a connection to people who have been through a similar experience, as the power of example could increase the chances the child will accept professional help;
  • Seek professional support to help them stop gambling and not pick it up again.

There are many professional clinics that you can take your child to. In severe cases, you might have to spend a week or more with the child in one of these clinics for the best treatment, but most of the time, a weekly visit to a psychologist may be enough.

Gambling addiction prevention measures

Gambling addiction prevention measures

Gambling problems among youngsters is never an issue of the youngsters alone, but an issue that affects the entire family and might even have its roots in the family’s lifestyle. Therefore, in order to avoid it, you should be considering the following measures:

  1. Never give your child more money than they need – having a high amount of money to spend however they like may enable some children to try grown-up activities, which may even include gambling. Only give them the money necessary for essential things and closely monitor their expenses;
  2. Stay up to date with their circle of friends – as they grow up, children will start making new friends parents often do not know about. Try and organize activities and invite their friends so you can get a chance to know them better. If any friend shows signs of interest in gambling, do not ask your child not to see them anymore. This may cause them to rebel and start being secretive about it. Instead, try and invite their other friends over or introduce them to new children, thus redirecting their attention to other kids;
  3. Spend plenty of quality time with them – learn more about your child’s hobbies and start doing them together or help your child discover new activities and sports they may become passionate about. The less spare time they have, the fewer chances there are for them to pick up bad habits or engage in activities that may have a negative impact on them;
  4. Use parental control on computers and mobile gadgets – most gambling is done online nowadays, which means that every child with Internet access may end up on a gambling website. Install parental control software on mobile devices and also on the computer the child uses. Monitor their online activity and make sure they cannot access websites that are destined for adults.

Whether your child already picked up gambling or if you simply are worried they might, it is never too late to start implementing these measures. The chances of underage gambling significantly drop when parents pay full attention to their child, their activities, friends, and time online.

The number of children who start gambling is increasing every year, in spite of the Gambling Commission’s efforts to avoid that. The child’s lifestyle and family life are essential in these cases and, if overlooked, this type of problem may cause even more significant issues in both the child’s life and the family’s. Many gambling addicts had started playing casino games before they had the legal age to do it, so it is not a phase or something that parents must allow to pass on its own. Everything can be fixed, and bigger problems can be avoided with the right amount of attention and care from the parents and, where needed, professional help.

The information in this article comes from the following sources: