Lottery Tickets for Your Kids’ Holiday Stockings? Not a Good Bet
Published Dec. 14, 2015 by Mary Ann Dearborn, LCSW, CPS Tillamook County Tillamook Family Counseling Center
Updated 10/29/18 by DeAnna Pearl, MAT, CPS Tillamook County Tillamook Family
Today’s is the first generation to grow up in a society where gambling is widely accepted and gambling activities are commonplace. Did you know that research indicates that youth problem gambling rates are 2-4 times higher than those of adults?
Surveys of Oregon teens tell us that drugs, alcohol and gambling often travel together, yet many parents say “they just don’t see” their kids gambling, or they see gambling as a relatively safe pastime and encourage it as an alternative activity. The 2018 Tillamook County data tells us a different story: Gambling is the #1 youth risk behavior for 6th, 8th and equal to #1 risk factor for 11th graders, which is alcohol, in Tillamook County. Unfortunately, an average of 3% of students surveyed felt that they would like to stop betting money but didn’t think they could in the last 12 months.
Both kids and adults can get caught up in gambling – a behavior that is associated with significant problems, like those reported by Tillamook County youth who reported gambling in that survey. Those youth also reporting lying about their betting, spending more time or money gambling than they wanted to, and feeling they can’t stop gambling when they want to stop, at rates that are much higher than adult rates for gambling problems.
Gambling can also be as addictive as alcohol or drugs for some people. Brain studies indicate the same areas of the brain “light up” when an addicted gambler gambles as when a cocaine addict takes a hit of cocaine. And risk of gambling addiction developing in adulthood is increased by exposure to gambling as a youth, just as addiction to tobacco, drugs and alcohol are increased by exposure to those substances as a youth, because of adolescent brain development and how the not-yet-adult (adolescent) brain responds to certain behaviors and substances. Here’s why the adolescent brain and gambling or substance use are a bad combination:
– The brain’s frontal lobes (where decisions and judgments are made) is not fully developed until the 3rd decade of life;
– The adolescent brain routes decision making through the amygdala (emotion center of the brain), resulting in fight, flight, freeze or freak out responses;
– The adolescent brain is especially vulnerable to risk taking and impulsivity (seeking fun and easy entertainment);
– The adolescent brain is more sensitive to the effects of dopamine, the “feel good” chemical (neurotransmitter) in the brain that becomes activated by exposure to alcohol or other drugs, gambling, high-intensity media, food and sex.
Gambling, unlike substances, is more widely accessible to youth, with gambling available online, on mobile phones, at friend’s houses, etc. This is not to say that if a kid you care about is gambling you need to panic–most kids do some form of gambling and most don’t develop gambling problems. But we do need to understand the risks and recognize that gambling is an activity that, for some, carries risk of potential addiction and approach it accordingly, as you would tobacco use, drug use, or drinking, and we need to talk with youth about that. That’s why Oregon health education requirements include gambling in the content that is to be presented to students.
Good News! In 2018, 6th graders report their parents are talking to them more about risks of gambling at a rate of 63%. Even greater, over 90% of all students report they were more than honest about when they did gamble.
Unfortunately, 8th and 11th graders reported the lowest percentage of conversation about risks of gambling since 2010. This directly correlates to their average of 32% of last 30 day gambling. The most important thing we can do is to talk to our kids about gambling, as we would any other risky behaviors, using these simple guidelines:
- Notice opportunities to discuss gambling. Help your children make sense out of what they see on television, in the news and in the community.
- Discuss rules and expectations for behavior with your children and follow through on consequences.
- Be specific and concrete. When you talk about gambling, mention examples: buying a lottery ticket, betting on a sports event, playing bingo, etc.
- Be clear about your own values but avoid sweeping statements (all gambling is bad) or threats (if I ever catch you betting money…). Kids feel immortal, so scaring them doesn’t work, and threats invite rebellion.
- Emphasize and model balance and choice. Facing choices about gambling and other risk behaviors can be a good way to practice making good decisions about many life issues.
As adults, we play the most important role in the prevention of problem gambling behaviors in our kids. We don’t know which kids will go on to develop gambling problems, so it’s important to think about the example you set and the messages you give when it comes to gambling.
You may want to think twice before buying kids any one of the hundreds of gambling products that will adorn your newspaper’s ad inserts. And skip the Lottery ticket for their stocking. A better gift is helping your kids understand the best bets in life aren’t made in card games, on the internet or with a Lottery ticket.
If your own gambling, or that of a family member, is getting out of hand there is free help available in every Oregon county.
HELP FOR GAMBLING – PROBLEM GAMBLING HOTLINE
Call: 1-877-My Limit (1-877-695-4648)
Instant Messaging/Chat: http://www.opgr.org/
Tillamook Family Counseling Center, (503) 842-8201
Help is free, confidential, and it works.