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Information for Parents

​​​​​​Gambling has become a highly visible part of our day-to-day lives. Today's children are the first generation to grow up with gambling all around them. As parents, you have an important role in what you teach your children—directly and indirectly—about gambling.

What are we dealing with?

Here's what research done in Alberta tells us:

  • 54% of teens don't gamble
  • 45% of teens do
  • 39% are non-problem gamblers
  • 3.5% are at risk for problems
  • 2.1% are problem gamblers

What can I do to prevent gambling problems?

Many things shape the choices your child will make about gambling. In the same way that you have guided them on important issues before, you can influence your children about gambling. How you do this depends how old your child is, and your family values and experiences.

Why do teens say they gamble?

Teens say they gamble for entertainment or fun, for excitement or as a challenge, and to win money.

  • They don’t see betting as gambling; instead, they see it as a natural part of what they do.
  • For those teens who are problem gamblers, gambling was a common and visible activity in their home.
  • Teen problem gamblers had early gambling experience, often with a parent or someone else they looked up to.
  • Teens with gambling problems were also likely to be heavier users of tobacco and alcohol, and to have used cannabis.
  • Much of their gambling involves informal bets with family or friends: playing cards or board games for money; betting on the outcome of sports events; or playing games of skill such as pool, golf, or darts for money.

What are some signs of gambling problems in teens?

Some signs include:

  • using money for gambling that was meant for something else
  • betting money they don't have
  • going into debt because of gambling
  • lying to family or friends about their gambling
  • selling, giving away, or losing their possessions (clothing, CDs, or iPods™)
  • stealing money or possessions from other family members or friends
  • missing school to gamble
  • monitoring sports results very closely
  • becoming overly excited or depressed at the outcome of sports events
  • creating opportunities to gamble, like turning games into chances to bet
  • always thinking about activities related to gambling
  • losing interest in other activities they once enjoyed

Some things to think about

Talk about your family's values about money, about competition, and about the place of betting in recreational activity. Pay attention to what values your children are developing.

Be clear about your values and what you think about gambling. Talk about these with your children in ways they can understand.

If you gamble, think about what spoken and unspoken messages you may be giving to your children about gambling.

Explain to them what a gambling problem is, using examples they can understand.

Gambling is a problem if it causes financial, personal, or other problems for the gambler or those close to them. It can cause problems just once in a while (for example, being late with the rent or paying a bill late some month) or ongoing (for example, gambling with money that was meant for day-to-day expenses).

Encourage your children to develop different skills and interests in their spare time. Spend time doing things with them.

Focus on their strengths to help them develop a strong sense of self-worth.

Develop a trusting relationship with your children, balancing their need for independence with your need to monitor their attitudes and behaviour related to gambling.

A little prevention now can go a long way later. Many teens don’t see betting as a big deal. For many that’s probably true. The concern, however, is that teens who make gambling a regular part of their recreation now may carry that behaviour with them into adulthood—when they will have greater income, access to credit, and are old enough to get into gambling venues.

If you are worried that you or someone you know may be having problems with gambling we’re here to help. Our addiction treatment services are voluntary and confidential. For more information and to find an addiction services office near you, please call the 24-hour Help Line.

Current as of: April 11, 2019

Author: Addiction and Mental Health, Alberta Health Services