As gaming and gambling become more normalized in American society, it is important to keep in mind that a percentage of youth will experience problems. Prevention education efforts aimed at alcohol, tobacco, drug use and antisocial behaviors, should be extended to youth gambling.
The youth gambling fact sheet from the International Center for Responsible Gaming, summarizes the research that shows that problem gambling co-occurs with other risky behaviors for children and adolescents, including smoking, alcohol use, and drug use. According to Change the Game - Unlock the Reality of Youth Gambling, a site of Ohio for Responsible Gambling, one youth out of 20 (ages 14-21) is at risk for problem gambling, and children introduced to gambling by age 12 are four times more likely to develop a gambling problem. This is especially a concern since many gaming apps, which simulate the same excitement and risky activation of the brain-reward circuit that is experienced by gamblers, are marketed to children as young as two years of age; at the same time, there is also growing casual exposure of youth to parents and adults betting on sports or buying lottery tickets with the expansion of gaming and gambling opportunities across the US.
Youth gambling refers to gambling activities engaged in by minors or young people under the age of 18 or 21, depending on the jurisdiction. This type of gambling is problematic because of the potential for young people to become addicted to gambling and develop negative social, financial, and health consequences. According to the Virginia Council on Problem Gambling, the symptoms include:
While typically thought of as an adult issue, there are several ways that youth under the age of 18 might engage in gambling, including:
With regards to online and video game gambling, there are several types of games on mobile apps that could potentially foster gambling addiction in children. These games are not considered to be the same as traditional gambling; however, they can still be addictive and harmful, especially for children and youth.
To prevent potential addiction and to avoid disastrous outcomes that can occur for individuals who begin gambling young, is important for educators to proactively engage in preventative measures that can support children towards choosing options other than gambling.