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At-Risk Behavior & the Adolescent Brain

Published: March 25, 2019

When you think about all the different “talks” you have with kids as they grow up, the potential consequences of gambling may not seem like an obvious topic. But it’s just as important as any other life lesson.

The dangers of alcohol, cigarettes and drugs are easy to see. But many parents don’t quite understand the risks associated with gambling – and why young people are particularly vulnerable.

Children and teenagers don’t always understand or acknowledge the consequences of their actions. They make irrational decisions. They act impulsively. They’re more likely to take risks. And there’s a reason why – children’s brains aren’t fully developed until they’re in their early twenties.

The part of the brain that processes complex information and helps make better choices lags behind the part that drives emotion and impulse. And that’s why kids, teenagers and even college students are at greater risk of being lured in by the emotional highs of chasing after the “big win” that gambling promises.

We need to educate our kids about the risks of gambling – because opportunities to gamble are all around them. They constantly see advertisements for gambling opportunities. They might get scratch-off tickets as gifts and player poker for money at family gatherings. They get introduced to simulated gambling behaviors in a large number of the video games that they play every day.

Research shows that children introduced to gambling at a young age are much more likely to develop problems later in life. So, talk to your kids about the issue. Here are a few pointers to help get the conversation going:

  • Explain that gambling results in losses more often than wins. Spending money on things they want is better than losing it all on a bet.
  • Explain that underage gambling is illegal.
  • Talk to them about the consequences of problem gambling – depression, financial problems, lower self-esteem, lower grades, damaged friendships…
  • Encourage healthy spending. Talk with your child about how they plan to spend money they have from after-school jobs or allowance.
  • Ask questions about their experiences with gambling – and listen to their answers.
  • It’s never too soon to start a savings account

To learn more about the issue and what you can do to help, visit – an initiative brought to you by Get Set Before You Bet.

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