The legalization of mobile sports betting (MSB) is having an affect on our youth. Millions of dollars are spent on advertisements to make sure everyone is aware of MSB, including our youth.
Youth are at a stage of growth and development. They are not in a phase of their lives to make the best choices for themselves. Therefore, youth are extremely impressionable and carry a higher risk for problem gambling.
Increased Risk for Youth
Youth are at an increased risk for developing a problem with any gambling because of their brain development. Although they’re becoming more independent, and they’re starting to take on responsibilities of adulthood, their brain is still developing and they are not ready. Youths’ brains are not fully developed until about the age of 25.
The last part of the brain to develop is the prefrontal cortex. If you scratch your forehead, you’re right near it. The prefrontal cortex is in front, and is the part of the brain that makes judgment calls. It’s the part of the brain that makes you think, “do I want pizza, or do I want a salad?” That’s a silly, but an accurate, example.
Without a fully developed brain to make healthy decisions, youth are very impressionable. Yourh are easily impressed or guided/misguided by peers, other adults and the media. Whatever youth see, they’re interested to learn more about. If they see their friends doing something, they want to try it too. If they see an adult or a parent doing something, they want to try that too. And if something is in the media, with commercials, social media posts and discussions of sports betting on sports commentary shows, youth are going to be much more interested to learn more and try it.
Affects on Youth
A youths brain is easily influenced. Therefore, mobile sports betting is affecting youth. It’s affecting how they see gambling and sports, and how they perceive people who gamble. Youth are developing a much more positive view of gambling and may be unaware of the possible consequences. If youth are gambling, they may not even realize that some of the problems they’re dealing with may be due to their gambling behaviors.
Conversation: The number one thing to do to prevent youth gambling and the consequences from youth gambling is to have a conversation. Parents and teachers (youth influencers) just need to start talking. All youth influencers are having simple conversations with their youth. Youth want to share. They want to share what they’re into, who they’re talking to, who they’re interested in or really anything that is important to them. Youth influencers can learn a whole lot from kids just by sitting and listening.
There’s two ears and one mouth. So let’s focus on listening 60% of the time or more. Listening 60% of the time or more includes not thinking about what we want to say, but, rather, taking that time to really listen. Youth want to, and will, share. They want to talk to people that care about what they care about. Show that you care and your youth will open right up and express everything they’re interested in.
Take A Stance: Youth influencers really need to take a stance and let their kids know that gambling is not an acceptable behavior. That may seem to contradict the last tip, but after listening to what youth are interested in and listening to who they’re around, youth influencers do need to give some boundaries. Make sure to take the time to listen, and offer guidance in a limited way that allows youth to make healthy decisions for themselves. Give them the open opportunity to come, safely discuss their behaviors and safely receive guidance rather than punishment and consequences. The important thing is that they feel comfortable talking, but are aware that gambling is not an acceptable behavior.
Community Policies: Community policy is important because it sets a standard of what youth are allowed to do throughout the community and in schools, anywhere they spend a lot of their time. Policies set important boundaries throughout the community to help youth understand that youth gambling constitutes an unhealthy behavior. Visit your school board and ask if there is a policy that prohibits youth gambling. Start the discussion of implementing a youth gambling policy in the school, a business you work with and your local library.
NYS Regional Support
The most important thing to walk away with is knowing that there is help. There’s hope for youth and parents, and adults and families affected by mobile sports betting. There is help in New York State for anyone or any group of people that is negatively affected or struggling with problems associated with problem gambling. Contact your local problem gambling resource center at NYProblemGamblingHELP.org and you will be connected with an empathetic, educated staff member who will be excited to offer you resources and support in whatever form that you feel will suit your needs.