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Culture & Religion

How to Tell if Your Kids Have a Gambling Addiction

They’re crafty, they’re scheming, they will ruthlessly fleece your last recession-precious pennies. They are not the Wall Street scions of global wealth. They are the new financial villains and they are three feet tall.

University of Montreal psychologist Linda Pagani tracked a group of 163 kindergartners, average age five and a half. Teachers were asked to note their inattentiveness, distractibility and hyperactivity in the classroom. Six years later, at the ripe old age of eleven and a half, Pagani checked in on her test group to see who was playing online bingo, video poker or scratch-and-win games. Sure enough, those who showed impulsivity in kindergarten were prepping for Vegas in their tweens.

ThoughDiagnostic and Statistical Manual normally treats pathological gambling as a purely adult problem, Pagani’s findings suggest societal influences can instill a level of impulsivity in children that can lead to greater problems later in life, something the Annenberg Public Policy Center would corroborate.

Through the lens of consumerism, children with a penchant for gambling make perfect sense. Consumer choices depend significantly on the worse angels of our nature–greed, risk and insatiable desire. Gambling among pre-adolescents highlight the extent to which these qualities trickle in from media, marketing and children’s peer groups. We encourage big thinkers to let us know if you think children should be left to sink or swim in the consumerist sea or if filters should be erected, in kindergarten or the media, to shield youngsters from the slippery slope toward Vegas.


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