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 two to four times higher than those of adults?
Surveys of Oregon teens indicate drugs, alcohol and gambling often travel together. Parents see gambling as a relatively safe pastime and encourage it as an alternative activity. According to the 2012 Oregon Student Wellness Survey for Douglas County, only 38 percent of parents have talked to their 11th-graders about the risks of betting/gambling.
Both youth and adults can get caught up in gambling in a way that is harmful to themselves and others around them. Our children can now gamble online, on their mobile phone, at friend’s houses, etc. This is not to say that if your child is gambling you need to panic — most who do some form of gambling don’t develop gambling problems. But we do need to recognize it’s an activity that, for some, carries risk of potential addiction and approach it accordingly, as we do tobacco, alcohol or other drug use. The earlier one starts gambling, the more likely he or she is to develop a problem (similar to early use of alcohol or tobacco) and Oregon data tell us that it’s starting as early as sixth grade.
The most important thing we can do is to talk to our children 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. If your own gambling, or that of a family member, is getting out of hand or setting a bad example, there is free help available in every Oregon county. In Douglas County, call Adapt at 541-672-2691 and ask for the Problem Gambling Treatment Office or call 1-877-My Limit (695-4648). You can also access services on line at www.1877mylimit.org.
• As parents, we play the most important role in the prevention of problem gambling behaviors in our children. We don’t know who will go on to develop gambling problems, so it’s important to think about the example we set and the messages we give when it comes to gambling. You may want to think twice before buying your kids any one of the hundreds of gambling products that may be advertised. And skip the lottery ticket for their stocking. The Oregon Student Wellness Survey indicates that 66 percent of Douglas County 11th-graders have NOT gambled in the last 30 days. A better gift is helping them understand the best bets in life aren’t made in card games, on the Internet or with a lottery ticket.
Pauline Martel is director of prevention and training for Adapt, a Roseburg-based treatment, education and prevention program. She can be reached at 541 672-2691, ext. 248, or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org.