Here is the second in my series on Risky Teen Behaviors that I did for the NBC Today Show last week. Most of these games are addicting. They are starting EARLIER and the majority are done in your child’s bedroom while you are at home.

REALITY CHECK: Did you know that gambling is quickly surpassing drinking, drugs and smoking as the most popular high-risk activity among boys?

Gambling is spreading quickly in the under 18 sector, despite the fact that it’s still illegal in many forms. What’s more, teens are between two to four times as likely as adults to be problem gamblers.

Signs to Look For

* Bragging about winning money

* Dropping out of other activities to spend time gambling and betting money

* Asking for additional cash. Using lunch money or other expenses to pay for gambling

* Reading extensively about gambling; purchasing poker chips, cards and other poker paraphernalia

* Purchasing MasterCard and Visa gift cards. Teens are using them to deposit funds through small financial firms that do business with online casinos. It’s one way they get past the age requirements by just checking on-screen box stating they are 18 or older

* Watching TV gambling shows such as “Celebrity Poker” and “World Series of Poker” compulsively; frequenting online gambling sites

What Parents Can Do

* Monitor your child’s internet and TV choices; restrict when compulsions increase

* Watch your teen’s money spending traffic

* Get help if you suspect an addiction from an outside group such as 1-800 NEXT STEP

* Watch your own language. Are you excited about card games? Can’t wait to get to that casino? Curl up every night to watch Celebrity Poker?

Check out yesterday’s article in the Ft. Worth Star- Telegram: “Teenage gamblers may be betting their lives away” by Pete Alfano. You just may curb your tongue. Kids are becoming addicted to gambling at an early age. The fourteen year old in the story was introduced to gambling quite innocently enough are about 7 or 8 years old when his dad would let him scratch off instant lottery tickets. He even felt a rush collecting Monopoly pieces in a popular McDonald’s game promotion.

Keep an eye on your kids. College kids are spending hours online trying to make extra spending cash. Addiction to gambling amongst the younger age set is a huge and troubling new trend.

Michele Borba