Compulsive Online Gambling among Teenagers

Teenage girl with laptopInternet gambling has become an increasingly popular form of gaming. Through online web sites, users can gamble through interactive television and mobile phones. The convenience of 24-hour access, the ease of setting up an online account and the variety of sites from traditional betting, to casino gambling, to lotteries—all of this makes Internet gambling very appealing to some.

Individuals who start experiencing a problem with Internet gambling may become preoccupied with gambling, creating a disruption in personal, family, and social aspects of their lives. Studies found that teenaged Internet gamblers were more likely to have a serious gambling than other gamblers. Teenaged Internet gamblers were also more likely to suffer from health and emotional problems such as substance abuse, circulatory disease, depression, and risky sexual behaviors.

According to the National Gambling Impact Commission, young children and teenagers are at the greatest risk to develop a problem with Internet gambling. They estimated that 16-24 year old males comprise 4% of Internet gamblers and 11-18 year old males comprise 4-7% of Internet gamblers, a significant increase with advent of online casinos (www.ncalg.org).

Brad, a 19-year old math major at the University of Minnesota, lost his scholarship and had to resign from school because of his addiction to online gambling. “I didn’t start out thinking I would get so hooked,” he explained. “I started playing Texas Hold ‘Em after watching a poker show on TV. It was just something I did for fun. Then, I started staying up late, missing classes, spending tons of money; all my time was spent playing the game. It was more than winning and losing money. To be a good player, you’ve got to be smart and I liked the intellectual challenge and competitiveness of the game.”

Brad’s mother became concerned when she discovered Brad’s falling grades.

“I knew it was about the computer,” she said. “But no one seemed to believe me. A counselor at his school told me that it was just a phase but this was more than just a phase.” Parents and partners are usually the first to notice a loved one’s online gambling habit, and the range of behaviors is similar to those for any type of gambling addiction:

  • Showing increased excitement when going online to find new gambling spots
  • Rearranging schedules to permit more time for online gambling activities
  • Feeling that a change in online gambling activities will bring good luck and subsequently increasing the size of their bets
  • Chasing lost bets to try to catch up
  • Placing larger bets and betting more frequently
  • Boasting about winning and minimizing losses
  • Going online to gamble when faced with a crisis or a stressful situation

For someone with an addiction, these symptoms also result in changes in the person’s personality and routine behaviors. Suddenly there are unexplained absences from work, home, or other responsibilities. The person becomes secretive, conceals or attempts to conceal how his or her time is spent at the computer, and outright lies about the real nature of his or her computer activity. Often, the gambling addict experiences mood swings, showing extreme highs when they win and extreme lows when they lose. Values go by the wayside and many violate their own principles. They begin to hide money, make secret loans, or make unusual, sporadic, or unexplained withdrawals from family bank accounts. Suddenly they find themselves capable of or actually stealing money from friends and family—then lying about it—in order to bet more, pay off debts, or recoup losses.

As for any addiction, there is hope and help available for problem gambling. You can look for a therapist on GoodTherapy.org by searching here.

© Copyright 2011 by Kimberly Young, PsyD, therapist in Bradford, Pennsylvania. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Jan

    October 12th, 2011 at 4:13 PM

    curious about how they even have the money to begin with to get involved with sites like this? are they stealing? surely they have to have access to a credit card.

  • Harriett

    October 13th, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    It is a shame that there are so many children who feel like their computer and the life that they lead online is the only thing that they have. And the worst part is that many of their parents knowingly allow this escape because they don’t want to have to deal with the realities of being a parent to an adolescent who needs you most right now. I really do hate to see that these kids are throwing t heir lives away on such a senseless activity, because once an addiction is begun, we all know just how hard it can be to get life back on the right track.

  • MATT

    October 15th, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Wow, so these young adults are now getting addicted to online gambling. But then I am not too surprised-There are probably millions of young adults who are into serious gaming in America alone. SO when these people spend so much time gaming,they may just want to put in a little money at first and play ‘just another game’ and soon they will be pumping in more and more money and the addiction has them!
    The major problem here is that because they are not fully matured,they may not think about or observe how this ‘game’ is taking over them.

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