2015 | Week of September 21 | #1116
Several weeks ago I did a commentary entitled, “The War on Children.” I said the war is intentional, unrelenting and vicious. In the litany of battles in this war, I did not include gambling. But after an article surfaced in the Appleton Post Crescent last week, I have to add gambling as yet another war on children—teenagers especially.
Rose Gruber is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling. In the Post-Crescent interview, Gruber says she and the organization she leads are seeing “kids betting on just about everything.” That observation is important. It’s a stark reminder that teenagers don’t have a filter on much of anything. They are simply not mature enough to be able to make wise choices about gambling or any other type of potentially addictive or dangerous activity.
Science tells us that the frontal lobes of the brain are not fully connected to the other areas of the brain in teens. This is the area of the brain that helps a person ask, “Is this a smart thing to do? Is it a good thing? What are the consequences?” In addition, teen brains are more susceptible to addictions.
More and more research is showing that gambling results in physiological responses that result in and feed addictions. Some studies have shown strong similarities as it relates to the brain’s response, between substance abuse and pathological gambling, involving, yes, those problematic frontal lobes that don’t work so well in teens.
What does this mean? It means teens are ripe, are easy pickings to become gambling addicts.
Of course we want to immediately jump to the Internet as the main culprit for making underage gambling almost universally available. But experts in teen gambling say most of the gambling is taking place right in their own homes.
A specialist in Gruber’s office says “poker nights are replacing drinking parties for some kids,” adding that television programs that feature high-stakes games are very attractive to some young people. In addition, some parents think gambling is a harmless activity and actually encourage their teens to play poker in the basement. Gruber notes that the long-term effects of problem gambling “can be really severe for kids.”
According to the article, teens involved in gambling have higher rates of school problems, crime, family problems, peer relationship problems, legal and money problems, depression and even suicidal thoughts and attempts, “escape” behavior and risk for co-occuring additions such as alcohol and substance abuse.
So what’s the best defense in this particular battle in the war against children? It’s the same for all the battles: concerned, involved parents. God designed the way the human brain develops. His design presumes that children will have parents who act as the filter for their behavior and decisions. He knows their brains aren’t capable yet of always determining what choices might hurt them and what consequences might happen as a result of a certain choice—both short-term and long-term.
God gave that responsibility to parents. Dads and moms are the very best defense a child has in standing up to the gambling battle or to any other battle in this vicious war.
Protecting children from gambling and other dangerous activities and habits requires purposeful, intentional, deliberate, involved parenting. Yes, I realize I used several different words for the same idea. I want to be sure to emphasize that truth: good parenting doesn’t just happen. It takes planning, work, and consistency. But not being intentional in parenting comes with much too high of a price tag.
The siren song of Lady Luck is everywhere today, parents. She’s singing to your son and daughter. The tune is melodious, winsome, virtually irresistible. The lyrics promise quick and easy money—lots of it—innocent, harmless fun. You know she’s a huckster, a shyster; but your children don’t. Now’s the time to teach them what God says about money and stewardship, to monitor their activities—not because you want to squelch their fun but because you love them too much to let them become a victim in this war against children.
This is Julaine Appling for Wisconsin Family Council reminding you the prophet Hosea said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”