Don't gamble on your future

My sons, both of whom are in their 20's, have recently discovered poker. Since they were raised in a non-gambling home (I have never even bought a lottery ticket), this astounds me.

More and more young people are now gambling and it generally starts innocently and in subtle ways. It is becoming socially acceptable to participate in 50-50 draws, casino nights, and afternoon poker games.

While most teens start to gamble just "for fun," some will end up with a serious gambling problem and it can easily become an addictive pastime.

Gambling is becoming the most popular high-risk activity among teenagers. According to research by McGill University, "80 per cent of teenagers gamble." Between four and six per cent could be considered problem gamblers, while an additional 10 to 15 percent would be considered at-risk for developing a gambling problem. Clearly, gambling addiction is not just an adult problem.

The impact of youth gambling addiction is huge. It has a negative effect on every aspect of life, from learning and school performance, to mental and physical health. To support the habit, criminal activity can follow. Youth problem gamblers may also have alcohol or drug addictions.

What should you do if you think your child has started to gamble and/or has a gambling problem?

Talk to your child. Really listen to what they have to say. Share with them - in a non-threatening way - the possible outcomes of their behaviour so they understand the risks involved when gambling. Engaging them in conversation in no way says that you agree with what they are doing.

Be aware of your own gambling habits. Children/young people are more likely to gamble if they see family members gambling or hear them talk excitedly about a win.

Help your child understand that gambling is a form of entertainment and is not a way "to get rich quick". While gambling might be fun, there are risks.

Limit or eliminate gambling activities in the home.

Learn to gamble responsibly by setting limits on:

how often you gamble

how much time you will spend gambling

how much money you are going to bet and bet only what you can afford to lose.

Here are some actions we can take to prevent teenage problem gambling:

Communities - can educate themselves about gambling;

Schools - can review policies on gambling activity on school property;

Families - can talk about safe gambling;

Youth - can learn the difference between safe and problem gambling.