Q: A 13-year-old friend of my son gambles on the Internet. Apparently all they have to do is lie about their age and have a credit card. Some of the sites accept PayPal, which is even easier for kids. Is this a real problem and should I mention it to his mother?
A: Gambling is a growing concern among children, says the Help of Families panel.
“This is a huge problem,” says panelist Wanda Mercado-Arroyo. “This is a learned behavior, and these kids get something concrete.”
According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, 70 percent of children age 10-18 have gambled at least once in the past year.
All gambling is illegal for people under age 18, and you must be 21 to gamble in a casino in Pennsylvania.
You should let this mother know, and she should talk to her son.
“If he is getting a thrill from this, it could lead to other addictions,” says panelist Denise Continenza.
She notes kids often get introduced to gambling through scratch-off lottery cards.
His mother should ask him what he gets from gambling, panelist Chad Stefanyak says.
“This may be a cool thing he can brag about to friends,” he says.
Parents need to be role models. If you buy lottery tickets or go to the casino to gamble, you are sending a message to your children that gambling is a fun and accepted activity.
Talk with your children about gambling. Remind them that gambling is illegal for teens. Help your children develop interests in other activities.
You need to set firm boundaries with children, says panelist Suzanne Mulhern.
Don’t let children use the Internet unsupervised, Continenza adds. And set limits. You can add parental controls and block sites, Mulhern says.
Also don’t let children have access to your credit cards.
“If a child lies and uses someone else’s credit card, it is a gateway to a lot of issues,” Stefanyak says.
A child may have a gambling problem if he starts trying to hide things, is excessively checking the Internet, suddenly has money or buys expensive things.
The national problem gambling helpline is 800-522-4700 and the helpline for the Council of Compulsive Gambling of Pennsylvania is 800-848-1880.