I would like to share with you an interesting analysis, about often overlooked problem afecting young adolescents and children, submitted by RP from Kosovo Petrit Sopjani. Please feel free to share your opinions about this phenomenon.
Gambling is often considered as a social and behavioral problem among many people that causes social, economic and psychological depressive problems to individuals, their family and the community. There is a need for more in depth and specific researches to be conducted, tackling among other, on consequences in children involved in gambling activities. Multi-sectorial comprehensive analysis on the issue is required due to the following facts encountered so far:
Review of recent studies conducted in the last decade indicates that in UK and North America up to 91 percent of young people have gambled at least once in their lifetime. Ranging from 65-75 percent of those reporting gambling has gabled within the last year.
Gambling is not considered as a problem only on the northern hemisphere. Comparing different findings from different continents is estimated that approximately 10-14 percent of young people are at risk developing serious gambling problems and that between approximately 5-7 percent of young people are problem gamblers.
The above figures compared with other studies involving adult gabling problems conclude clearly that pathological gambling prevalence is much higher among youth rather than adults and constitute a serious social, health and economic problem for all societies. Is not clearly of the most at risk age for being exposed and develop serious gambling problem for a child. But is evident that as early the exposure in gambling, it will contribute to creating gambling problems and create other and or similar consequences also later at life.
Children and young adolescents have difficulty to clearly conceptualize gambling and its consequences. As a push factor is often considered lack of organized space and well-structured extra-curricular activities that often attract for exploring other forms of ‘entertainment’. Often gambling activities are introduced (sometimes unintentionally) by parents and or older siblings and or friends. Usually, yong adolescents are motivated to gamble as possibility for entertainment, sensation of wining, idea of having their own money, simply playing games and or for other escape from stress/problems.
Depending on the social context, it is considered that boys/men are more likely to be involved in in gambling and developing gambling problems.
Regardless of above, in any situation encountered, gambling problems are known to induce serious problems including of a psychological nature such as depression and anxiety disorders, suicidal thoughts/attempts, alcohol and narcotic addiction, involvement in criminal activities of robbery and other forms of steeling including valuable household items, asocial behavior within family and surrounding. At a later stage even divorce and family violence episodes. Gambling problems sometimes take in to the vicious circle other family members, rarely due to the extensive winning but in most cases the opposite, due to losses and debts created over time.
Today gambling industry is much more developed and sophisticated and much more easily accessible to people in general as well to young adults and adolescents. Lack of strict legislation and poor control in implementing legislative restrictions, in some countries makes more easily for a child to enter in gambling world and consequently gambling problems. Sport bets and or gambling machines are often organized informally and with little control in some underdeveloped countries. Internet games cannot impose age restrictions and can be easily accessed by children using online gambling games and forums. Internet gambling is much more attractive lately as it provides privacy, anonymity and protect from stigmatization.
As indicated at the beginning of this text, there is an urgent need to further analyze gambling consequences and in particular consequences for children and their development.
Particular intervention should focus on alerting of child professionals as well as parents on the risk of gambling problems that can be developed among children and youth. Gambling can have long term impact and consequence; it can be ‘quiet social problem’ that can develop in the life even at a later stage. Gambling is more difficult social and health problem than any other addiction since it is often hidden, difficult to detect and young people usually do not seek help.
Other steps should consist on general awareness rising campaigns targeting parents, child professionals and in particular children themselves; ensuring support to recognize risk factors of gambling and introducing preventive measures at all levels.
Most important is to build and implement comprehensive policies that will strengthen surveillance and control of gambling space, limiting at the maximum possible access for children.