Patrick West

Can under-25s be trusted?

The government’s proposal to overhaul and tighten betting laws, ostensibly to target problem gamblers, has understandably raised concerns about government interference and nanny-state overreach. Yet viewed from a wider perspective, we should welcome these initiatives and for the precedent they could set: they could be the final recognition that young adults do not reach maturity until the age of 25. 

As part of its gambling curbs the government will place ‘enhanced’ checks on the finances of under-25s, amid concerns that they’re less able to ‘regulate’ their impulses and make rational decisions. For example, the under-25s will have stakes limited to a maximum of between £2 and £4 for online slot machines.

Ministers believe that young men between and 18 and 24 are especially at risk and are less able to manage their money, are more prone to social pressure and more inclined to take ‘riskier’ behaviour. They conclude that under-25s in general ‘may still be developing capacity to regulate impulses and make rational decisions.’

Such measures reflect much that is already understood and accepted among sociologists, neuroscientists and car insurance companies. Firstly, that young men are the most reckless, risk-taking demographic in society, and should be treated accordingly. And secondly, and more broadly, that adults only reach maturity in earnest at around the age of 25, when their prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that governs social behaviour, is fully developed. The under-25s are more likely to behave immaturely and behave irresponsibly because they literally are more immature.

In recent years it has been an axiom of progressive politics that we should listen to the voice of youth: an assumption that has underpinned the drive to lower the age in which one can vote in elections – down to 16 in Scotland now – and more recent legislation by which aged a teenager is deemed by law mature enough to change their gender.

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