How Parents Can Kick Youth Gambling to the Curb

With celebrity endorsed gambling ads running during children’s programming, and video games following business models that function like casinos, parents are fed up. They have every reason to be with the teenage gambling crisis in America reaching a tipping point. While heart to heart conversations about the risks of gambling are a start, it’s not enough. Parents know that gambling is being marketed to look cool to their impressionable kids. For a prevention strategy to be effective, gambling must be made to look the opposite. How can this possibly be accomplished? By taking the gloves off, fighting fire with fire, and all of the cliches associated with an uphill battle. Below is what concerned parents need to do.

No-Holds-Barred Parental Guide to Making Gambling Look Dumb in the Eyes of Underage Kids and Teens

Make Influencers Looks Like Losers

The best thing to come out of the well-publicized battle between Kendrick Lamar and Drake was watching the 17 Grammy awarding winning Lamar call Drake out for his incessant promotion of gambling (among many other things). As you may know, Drake has been glorifying gambling to his 146 million Instagram followers, millions of which fall under the legal age (to gamble) category in U.S. states. This provides parents with the perfect opportunity to make the influencer lose his luster in the eyes of their impressionable kids.

There will be many opportunities like this when it comes to influencers who irresponsibly promote gambling to the young masses. The thing about these influencers, is that they are as dependable as a Florida man when it comes to embarrassing themselves in the public eye. For example, check out this list of Celebrity Sports Bettors to Unfollow. Google their names with “in trouble” and you’ll find an assortment of arrests and civil/legal lawsuits that you can leverage against their influence on your child. Do this for any celebrity/influencer that you see promoting gambling to your kids and you’ll more than likely find ammo to make them look foolish.

Until regulated U.S. states adopt Ontario Canada’s ban on the use of celebrities in gambling ads, this no-hold-barred tactic is necessary.

Use Satire as a Weapon

The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms that humor produces psychological and physiological benefits that help youth learn, which can subsequently help them make more informed decisions. But even without the backing of science, you know that your children respond well to messages when communicated in a humorous manner. You can use this in your battle against youth gambling. There are programs that your kids know about that have already provided content to make gambling look like a ridiculous habit.

Next to Ryan Gosling’s Papyrus skit on Saturday Night Live (SNL), the best sketch to come out 30 Rockefeller Plaza in years was Rock Bottom Kings. In true SNL form, it addressed a serious topic using tongue-in-cheek humor to get the message across while putting the sports betting world on blast. Play the SNL skit for your teens and open the living room up for discussion accordingly.

SNL wasn’t the first to use satire to address America’s problematic relationship with gambling. The Simpsons, America’s longest running animated series, sitcom, and primetime television series has also tackled problem gambling on multiple occasions. While popular among nearly all age groups, 56% of kids aged 2-11 and over 50% of youth aged 12-17 have been watching since the show started in 1989, making it an ideal gateway to problem gambling discussion without younger kids. The theme has occurred so many times that the has created a list of episodes for parents to use as a cautionary tool:

  • Series 5, Episode 10
  • Series 12, Episode 3
  • Series 15, Episode 3
  • Series 21, Episode 11
  • Series 26, Episode 16
  • Series 27, Episode 7

“Gambling is one of those things that has the potential to ruin your life, no matter how much you start out with. It’s a vice and it can turn into an addiction for many people, who get trapped in this vicious cycle where they just want more. It’s not surprising then that the writers of The Simpsons have made their share of episodes about gambling”

Cautionary Episodes About Gambling from The Simpsons

Other satirical shows that have told cautionary tales about gambling include Family Guy and South Park. While these shows are not appropriate for young children, older teens watch them and form sociopolitical opinions from them. Parents may choose to watch certain episodes with their older teens so as to open up discussion about problem gambling. In one poignant episode titled “Freemium Isn’t Free” (Season 18 Episode 6) South Park addressed how youth video game addiction can lead to problem gambling. A paper from the UNLV Gaming Law Journal summarized South Park’s (among other satirical programs’) take on problem gambling:

“In the episode, Stan Marsh downloads and becomes addicted to a game on his smartphone that asks him to make repeated purchases of in-game currency using real money. Despite the tangible price tag, Stan misses school to play the game all day, and even tells his friends the game is a ‘cool way to zone out’, demonstrating two key attributes of problem gambling: the state of affective calm and a disruption in daily life activities […] Upon discovering the significant charges on the phone bill, Stan’s father Randy bemoans the fact that Stan is exhibiting traits the family has struggled with before. He likens Stan’s addiction to Randy’s own father […] In an attempt to show Stan why he should rein in his spending, Randy takes Stan to the local casino. He points out that Stan’s grandfather – Randy’s father – spends most of his time there, flushing away money, and admonishes Stan that he doesn’t want him to end up the same. At first, Stan denies he has a problem at ail. Eventually, however, he admits, ‘Okay, I need help.’ This marks one of the few times gambling addiction has been treated seriously despite a comedic background.”

Problem Gambling is Funny | UNLV Gaming Law Journal

Extra Hardball Tip: Unplug the Console and Hand Your Kid a Paint Gun

Youth Gambling

As addressed above, video gaming can be a gateway to youth gambling. If your child spends too much time gaming as you see it, enforce a strict restriction on gaming time in your household. More importantly, if they are vulnerable to compulsive gaming, unplug the console and see what you can get for it on Craigslist. They will be upset with you at first, but there’s a solution – hand them a paint gun – or get them involved in some other form of actual recreation that mirrors the virtual world they have become to immersed in. Check out our guide to gaming alternatives that will not only help prevent gaming addiction, but youth gambling too.

We no longer live in a world where we can avoid talking to our kids about the dangers of gambling. That disappeared with the 2018 removal of the federal ban on sports betting, the proliferation of online gaming, and relative impunity that marketers seem to have when it comes gambling advertising. Consequently, parents must adopt preventative tactics that they may be uncomfortable with.

The good news, is that gambling abstinence in adolescence lowers the risk of problem gambling in later life. Adding the above no-holds-barred approach to this Youth Gambling Prevention Plan will provide you with an effective strategy.

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Youth Gambling