Saturday, April 21, 2012

Risky business

Teenagers can become addicted to gambling, particularly if they are exposed to it in the home
If we think of a gambler, we might conjure up an image of a bloke who spends his days at the TAB, or a granny putting her pension through a pokie machine.
But there are many different types of gamblers (as there are many ways to gamble) and not surprisingly, it is having an impact on our children.
A report early last year by the Australian Psychological Society found that 60 per cent of teenagers (13 to 17 years) revealed that they have gambled at least once a year.
The report showed that exposure to gambling by adults in the household, particularly fathers, increases the risk that children will develop gambling problems later in life.
“All the time they are reminded of the opportunity to gamble and this awareness, in addition to opportunities like at poker machines or betting at the TAB, can pose risks for young people,” co-author Associate Professor Paul Delfabbro said.
Prof Delfabbro said that even common pastimes such as card games could normalise gambling.
“All the evidence shows that we do what our parents do, and if kids are learning casino-style card games that teach them how to gamble, they will repeat that behaviour elsewhere.”
Teens have a lot of opportunities to gamble – many of which parents are unaware of.
Boys have at least twice the risk of developing gambling problems compared to girls, and the most common forms of gambling are card games and instant lottery tickets, but then many children will move onto more serious types of gambling in older adolescence.
Gambling in childhood increases the risk of having a gambling problem as an adult.
The internet exposes children to gambling well before they are 18 and even legally allowed to gamble, and with more than 3000 online gambling websites worldwide, there are plenty of opportunities to gamble.
Teenagers can also gamble without money on phone and Facebook apps, and would you believe that there are more than 100 video games rated as suitable for children that have gambling themes.

Low levels of gambling might seem harmless, but it can lead to far more harmful behaviours such as smoking, binge-drinking, school truency, anti-social behaviour, loss of friends, depression, anxiety, and poor school results.
Children are far more likely to believe that gambling is a way to make money, or that you can keep winning, and therefore develop an addiction to gambling as a teenager or adult.
Teenagers can also easily get the wrong idea about gambling.
For example, online gambling is often designed so that players are highly successful in the “practice mode”. These early win make people believe they will keep on winning and draw them back for more.
Most types of gambling are based on chance, but there is a crossover between gambling and gaming that involves skill, and this may lead teens to think that all gambling involves skill, therefore believing their chances of winning are high.
Since many online gambling (and gaming) sites use online chat and messaging functions, teenagers may be given the impression that gambling is a good social activity to play with friends.
There are some warning signs parents can look out for that may indicate your child has a problem with gambling:
* Problems in school (truency and poor grades)
* Borrowing or stealing money from parents and/or friends
* Constant requests for money for no reason
* Poor sleep habits and poor hygeine
* Spending increasing amounts of time online
* Withdrawal from friends and activities they used to enjoy
* Sudden mood changes
* Selling personal belongings
* Unauthorised charges on your credit card
* Drinking alcohol and/or using drugs
* Engaging in illegal behaviours
* Has either large amounts of cash, or a great deal of debt, that cannot be explained
* Lying
* Secrecy about gambling, or denial that there is a problem.
If you don’t treat your child’s addiction, it can lead to a life-long problem that results in ruined relationships and financial hardship.
Meanwhile, Clubs Australia this week called for responsible gambling education to be part of the national school curriculum.
In a submission to a parliamentary inquiry on problem gambling, they are pushing for gambling education and awareness programs to be integrated into personal health and financial literacy lessons.
However it has been widely criticised as putting more pressure on our education system, and has been seen as a cop-out by Clubs Australia trying to downplay the harm that gambling causes by replacing it with a school class.
Clubs Australia said the program should dispel common myths about gambling and educate people about how to gamble safely.
It would also highlight consequences of problem gambling and promote avenues of help and ways to intervene, it said.
I’m not sure that this is the answer, though I do believe in keeping our teens informed.
If your teenager is showing signs of gambling, spend time with them explaining how gambling works and help them understand the risks.
Explain to them the odds of winning in a way in which your child can easily understand.
It’s important young people recognise the nature of the industry is to make a profit just like any other business, and they know how to make money from those who are vulnerable.
Encourage them to have other interests which will, in turn, encourage him or her to find other ways to have fun.
Be a good role model and try not to expose your child to gambling. Even exposure to gambling opportunities that are quick and played often, such as Scratchies, is thought to be risky for young people. 
If children see their parents gambling regularly, they will see this behaviour as normal.
Limit private access to the internet by keeping the computer in a family room instead of in the bedroom. This will make it harder for your child to hide any gambling activity.
If you believe your child has a problem with gambling, you can get advice from a psychologist, your GP or call Gambling Help Services on 1800 858 858.


Ronnel Sahagun said...
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