Parents should discuss responsible gaming with their children before they attend high school. The Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) advised parents that their children’s “tween” years — in general, between the ages of 9 and 13 — are the best time to discuss responsible gaming.
In a statement Monday, the MGCB said such discussions are essential due to a sobering statistic: About seven out of ten students aged 14 to 19 will wager money on poker and other games this year. The board said that having a discussion about responsible gaming now can avoid problems later.
“Parents should discuss responsible gaming with their children before they attend high school,” said MGCB Executive Director Henry Williams. “National studies have shown young people gamble in betting pools, while on the basketball court sidelines and on video games or even try to do so online or at a casino.
“As a parent and a former social worker, I know how important it is for parents to look for signs of problem behaviors and to take an active role in educating children to understand the consequences of their behavior.”
Experts say the warning signs that a youth could be developing a gambling problem are similar to the signs displayed by other addictive behaviors. Low mood, anxiety, stealing money, and appearing preoccupied are all warning signs.
According to the MGCB, the International Center for Responsible Gaming (ICRG) has developed a 10-step plan to help youth avoid risky behaviors that could develop into gambling problems later in life:
- Start Early: The ICRG said children often begin gambling during elementary school. Parents should start talking to their children about gambling when they are between the ages of 9 and 13.
- Listen: By creating an open environment at home, children will come to their parents when they have questions or problems related to gambling.
- Educate Yourself and Your Kids about Gambling: Parents and children can learn about Michigan’s gaming regulations by visiting the MGCB’s website.
- Discuss: The ICRG recommends parents talk with their children about probability and the actual chances of winning in gambling.
- Know Normal Behaviors: Parents should remember that adolescents are impulsive. They like to take risks, are preoccupied with the present, and don’t understand the long-term consequences of their actions.
- Set Rules: According to ICRG, research shows that parents who set specific, consistent, and reasonable rules for their children have fewer problems down the road, including with gambling.
- Monitor Activities: Experts recommend that parents stay involved in their children’s lives, but only to the extent that children don’t feel like they’re being controlled. Parents should ensure that they keep their credit cards, personal IDs, and internet accounts secure to prevent their children from using them without their knowledge or permission.
- Be Involved: ICRG recommends that parents ask math teachers to include lessons on probability and randomness in their courses. They also recommend that parents reach out to teachers and counselors to suggest that they keep an eye out for students playing cards and other games for money at school.
- Help Children Develop Coping Skills: Children with effective coping strategies can better focus on solving problems they may face in life rather than turning to gambling as a way to escape.
- Understand the Role of the Family: It’s important not to send mixed messages about gambling. If parents have a gambling problem, their children are at increased risk of developing a gambling problem.
The MGCB also recommended that parents use tools — such as parental controls on electronic devices — to prevent possible issues from online gambling.
“It’s also wise to prevent possible misuse by not leaving stored credit card and personal ID information on devices shared by younger family members or in other places where young people can have easy access to it,” Williams said. “Families also can create a central space where electronic devices are used under parental supervision.”
According to the ICRG, research shows that between 2% and 7% of young people experience a gambling problem. The organization also estimates that between 6% and 15% of youth have less severe gambling problems.
In a bit of good news, the ICRG said the rate of gambling problems among youth appears to have held steady for the last 25 years — despite a massive increase in the number of online gambling options made available in the US over the past few years.