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2003 PE Report

Americans find comfort in ‘nesting,’ but connecting is another matter (December 22, 2002)

Viewer discretion advised: Reality-based programs stoop to new low (December 15, 2002)

A/G among fastest growing faith groups (December 8, 2002)

Christians play crucial role in foster care (November 24, 2002)

A/G churches remember with outreaches (November 17, 2002)

Elderly face added woes from credit card debt (November 10, 2002)

PE Kidz News from BGMC (October 27, 2002)

Cyber-evangelists find innovative ways to share gospel (October 20, 2002)

Risks, stigma accompany wearing of tattoos (October 13, 2002)

Women lead on-campus ministries (September 29, 2002)

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base (September 22, 2002)

Marijuana, cocaine have abusive company: Ecstasy, meth and prescription painkillers (September 15, 2002)

September 11: A day that changed American Christians forever (September 8, 2002)

Congress, courts clash over Internet filtering issue (August 25, 2002)

People with disabilities bless churches (August 18, 2002)

Short-term youth binges can result in long-term habit (August 11, 2002)

Christians aim to preserve traditional marriage (July 28, 2002)

Payback time: Christian volunteers motivated to give back to community (July 21, 2002)

Urban training centers minister
to ever-growing population
(July 14, 2002)

E-mail rumors dupe multitudes, hurt credibility (June 30, 2002)

Not so innocent: PG-13 films increasingly push sex, language limits (June 23, 2002)

Skipping church: Why are some Americans staying home on Sunday? (June 16, 2002)

Fudge fellowship: Pastor's wife treats tavern clientele (June 9, 2002)

Persevering nomadic church finally reaches promised land (May 26, 2002)

Tragedy brings A/G church, community closer to God (May 19, 2002)

Couples find God's calling in adopting, raising children (May 12, 2002)

A/G chaplain ministers to women in maximum-security prison (April 28, 2002)

Youth center offers alternative to teens (April 21, 2002)

A week without television (April 14, 2002)

Technological know-how aids San Jose church outreach (March 31, 2002)

Cincinnati racial reconciliation brings inner peace to inner city (March 24, 2002)

District's fund-raising efforts aid pastors planting churches (March 17, 2002)

GED program an effective ministry (March 10, 2002)

Building relationshipis at heart of women's ministries outreach (February 24, 2002)

Single-minded devotion: Unmarried ranks offer ministry opportunities (February 17, 2002)

Bethany College honors black minister pioneer (February 10, 2002)

A/G quarterback wins Unitas Award (January 27, 2002)

Camp Melody plants song of love in boys' hearts (January 20, 2002)

Pastor breaks giving record after 10 days atop billboard (January 13, 2002)

2001 News Digest stories

2000 News Digest stories

Tobacco, alcohol, gambling industries find underage Internet client base

By John Cockroft (September 22, 2002)

While doing research for a paper at a Christian college, 19-year-old Luke came across an Internet pop-up ad for a free prize. He clicked on it, and soon was introduced to a barrage of online gambling opportunities. His new credit card and freedom away from home led Luke down an exhilarating path until, weeks later, he found himself thousands of dollars in debt, afraid to go home for Thanksgiving.

Steve and his high school classmates couldn’t wait for his parents to leave for a weekend church conference. Steve, 16, had his dad’s credit card number, and within hours of his parents’ departure, a delivery truck from a local grocery store brought four 12-packs of imported beer to the front door that had been ordered via the Internet. The delivery driver merely asked for a signature on the charge slip. Steve could never pull such a stunt in a store, but a legal loophole made his venture a breeze over the Internet.

Though these accounts are composites of actual incidents, the convenience of the Internet for consumers is creating a growing concern among lawmakers and parents. It’s not just online pornography that threatens families. Children now have access to cigarettes, alcohol and casinos, industries that aren’t regulated on how they sell to minors. Youngsters can falsify age information if they have access to their parents’ credit cards.

A recent survey of 88 tobacco Web sites found only 8 percent required proof of legal age for purchases, and only one major delivery service attempted to verify the age of a cigarette package recipient.

The alcohol industry is also fraught with online legal loopholes. "In addition to underage access, alcohol shipped across state lines avoids state taxes," Greg Bloss of the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in Rockville, Md., told PE Report.

Ed Looney, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling in Hamilton, N.J., says Internet gambling increased 89 percent last year. The first gambling Web site started in 1995. Now there are nearly 2,000, many of them offshore to avoid U.S. regulation. A University of Connecticut Health Center study reports that 74 percent of Internet gamblers were either problematic or pathological in the extent of their addiction.

Many underage gambling customers have their own credit cards. Sachin Jain, a 22-year-old college student from Newark, Del., was barely out of high school when he began four years of Internet gambling.

After spending up to three hours a day involved in online sports gambling, placing bets between $50 and $150, he lost nearly $10,000 before his parents forced him to seek counseling. "The attraction was being able to bet on anything from soccer to golf to tennis," he says. "It got out of control."

"We are losing a generation of young people," Looney says. "The addiction rate among students is two or three times higher than adults. They see government-sanctioned lotteries, so they don’t think there’s anything wrong with gambling."

Dr. Ken Winters at the University of Minnesota says youth are at four times the risk of adults for developing pathological gambling patterns. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission also links pathological gambling to alcohol and drug use, truancy, low grades and illegal activities to finance gambling. The Federal Trade Commission cites the combination of social isolation and credit use as risk factors for chronic online gambling, compounded by the fact that many minors access gambling Web sites easily and are exposed to online gambling ads on non-gambling sites.

Illegal online activity by minors is partially a result of the deterioration of the family, says Jim Harris, assistant professor of counseling and family therapy at Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Mo.

"Children are often left unsupervised to grapple with moral decisions with no assistance from our crumbling value system," Harris says. "People seem to want shortcuts to a remedy, which propels online corruption. In times spent interacting with our children we can teach moral problem solving and the child’s worth in God’s eyes."

To prevent illegal underage activity, accountability is key. "The only way to safeguard against illegal Internet sales to minors is over a counter, where a clerk can be held responsible," says Kerry Messer, president of the Missouri Family Network in Festus, Mo., a faith-based ministry defending and promoting biblical principles in public policy development.

However, Dr. Howard Shaffer, director of the Harvard Medical School Division on Addictions, says minors who falsify age information to obtain tobacco and alcohol or gamble online would also do so offline. "The Internet is a reflection of our society," Shaffer told PE Report. "Parents need to be involved in the lives of their children. When that happens, children have fewer problems."

Some say limiting access is necessary to slow a growing problem. Focus on the Family and other groups advocate making online alcohol, tobacco and gambling illegal. Messer also says the federal government has authority to regulate interstate commerce, and therefore has the responsibility to prohibit minors from using phone lines via the Internet for gambling or buying illegal products.

"Christians should be second-mile citizens, doing whatever it takes to promote moral behavior," Messer says. "To act like there is no viable solution is skirting our responsibility. Christians shouldn’t allow lawmakers to shrug off this issue."


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