How to Tell if Your Teenager is Addicted to Gambling

Today’s parents are at a loss as to how to determine if their child is addicted to gambling or simply participating in youthful fun and games. Gambling used to be taboo in our culture, now with television and internet poker games being broadcast 24 hours a day, seven days a week, you would think that a large part of the population has given up their day jobs to join “The Game”. Intentional or not, the “powers that be” that produce these shows are pandering to the youth of our nation by associating Hollywood celebrities and highly visible sports players with this event thereby promoting gambling as glamorous.

As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about with illegal drugs, underage drinking, explicit music and sexual promiscuity, now they have one of the most enticing new phenomenons to hit the planet since Pac Man blaring from their televisions 24/7 and readily available over the internet on their own home computers.

Gambling is big business in the United States, the gaming industry earns somewhere in the vicinity of 51 billion dollars annually. Children are forever looking for the latest thrill and TV /Internet poker seems to be the new “IT’ thing, teens unfortunately view it as harmless fun, they tend to view gambling as just another social activity but what it really is is a behavioral drug.

It starts out as a friendly game and before they know it teens are in over their heads. The cycle begins with staying up all night glued to the computer/TV and progresses to a complete devotion of all of their free time to this endeavor, grades/social lives suffer and relationships fall by the wayside. Gambling becomes a compulsion; it totally consumes their lives, no less dangerous or addictive than crack cocaine. If you are a parent and are suspicious that your teen may have a problem with gambling, review the following symptoms, note that they are eerily the same as other substance abuse and then you decide:

>�¯�¿�½Constantly borrowing money from family/friends that they never/seldom repay�¯�¿�½
> Selling personal belongings�¯�¿�½
> Lying and Stealing�¯�¿�½
> Moody, distracted, withdrawn and/or depressed

If any of these symptoms are present in your teen’s life, then more than likely they have a serious problem. Recent studies have shown that four to seven percent of all teens have gambling problems and the median age of the beginner youth gambler is 12.5 years of age.

If you feel that your teen is exhibiting these behaviors there is help out there in many forms: Outpatient programs, inpatient programs, specialty boarding schools, wilderness treatment programs and the most publicized of all treatment programs for teens with behavioral problems, military style boot camp. Boot camp seems to be the most media hyped program these days but studies have found that these type programs tend to make an already angry teen an abusive, resentful teen bent on revenge and/or self destruction. Let us not dare forget incidents like Columbine.

A more effective way of dealing with this problem, especially for teens addicted to gambling would be to immediately remove him/her from their “comfort zone” and isolate them from their close peer group. Follow these steps by immediately admitting your teen into an inpatient program that implements a series of graduating steps and a slow introduction back into their environment. Through these programs they will be sufficiently armed with the tools needed to resist peer pressure and the need for the instant gratification gambling provides. The disease is progressive so treatment should likewise be progressive. Most treatment plans follow a similar course of action:

> Detox�¯�¿�½
> Primary Treatment�¯�¿�½
> Extended Care�¯�¿�½
> Transitional Living�¯�¿�½
> Mentoring

Mentoring is a very important tool both for the recovering addict and for the newly diagnosed addict, it gives them a new sense of responsibility, in short a reason for living clean. Yes, it is hard for parents to think of their children as addicts, however, the term is appropriate here. When the thrill of the game outweighs everything else in your child’s life, the child has crossed the line from player to addict. Facing this hard reality is half the battle and is essential to bringing your child back from the edge and onto the road to recovery. As with other addictions, parents, family and friends tend to deny that their loved one has a problem thereby they ultimately become co-dependents.

We as a nation need to address this growing problem. Is it really necessary to turn our children into mini mes, steal their youth and rob them of their innocence? It is our duty as parents to take responsibility for our children and their actions and stop catering to their every whim. Whatever happened to building forts, catching fireflies in a Mason jar and playing stick ball in the street? We need to spend time with our children instead of throwing money and toys at them and sending them on their way. We should take a step back, stop focusing on keeping up with the Joneses and focus on our most precious gifts, our children.

The path they follow these days is fraught with danger and temptation; can’t we turn back the clock and promote simple, innocent pleasures that are age appropriate and harmless? Sure, the corporate machine probably frowns on such simplistic behavior, I guess Barbie dolls and G.I. Joes just aren’t cutting it when it comes to profit margins but now is the time to make a change. We should know what they are doing and where they are going at all times. Sure, they will get mad and probably tell us how much they hate us but in turn they will be alive to say these things and still grow up to spite us! We are NOT their friend, we are not supposed to be, it is our job to be the parent, a beacon that lights the path for our children’s journey through life. We must be proactive not reactive, we might save their lives or at the very least recognize a burgeoning habit that seems harmless but can ruin their lives. We need to steer them instead toward more positive endeavors.

Wake up America before it’s too late. Reality TV, becoming an instant millionaire and TV/Internet Poker, what’s next? A game show featuring how to murder someone in five easy steps? Another generation of our youth is soon to be lost to yet another senseless addiction if we turn away from this problem.

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