What Gift Are You Giving Your Child?

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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With the holiday season in full swing, Iowans are busy looking for fun and exciting gifts to finish up their shopping. With the popularity of Texas Hold 'Em and other poker games, these gift sets may be on many teenagers' wish lists. Although such games are nothing more than harmless fun for most young people, for others, these games and other forms of gambling may serve as the introduction to what could become a serious battle with problem gambling.

A study conducted by the McGill University Youth Gambling Research Centre found 70 percent to 80 percent of adolescents questioned reported having gambled for money in the past year, and approximately 30 percent reported gambling on a weekly basis.

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"It's important to be aware of the potential risks associated with gambling-related gifts," said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Gambling Treatment Program manager Mark Vander Linden. "Studies show introduction to gambling at an early age can lead to serious consequences in adulthood." Research has shown the major types of teen betting are sports betting, the lottery, card games like poker, and games of skill like pool or basketball.

"Gambling by teenagers is very prevalent in Iowa middle and high schools," said Mid-Eastern Council on Chemical Abuse (MECCA) Gambling Education coordinator Shelley Horak. "I spoke with one eighth grader who told me he had lost $100 gambling. I work with high school students who carry dice in their pockets for gambling during and after school. They are playing craps, black jack, and gambling online." Horak says many students tell her their mother, father or both parents routinely gamble, as well.

Signs of problem gambling in youth include:

* Bragging about wins or lying about losses
* Increasing time and money spent gambling
* Withdrawing from family and friends
* Excessive phone use, texting and/or internet activities
* Increased interest in the outcome of sports or games
* Personal or home items going missing

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