So boys are falling behind girls in the classroom, they have fewer male mentors (in the United States 50% of women under 30 with children are single mothers) and, according to one of America’s most eminent psychologists Philip Zimbardo, online technology has bred a generation of young men who no longer do ‘normal young male things’.
Zimbardo’s TED talk on the marginalization of men, The Demise of Guys?, has gathered nearly 2m hits online. In his new book, Man (Dis)connected, Zimbardo cites a study which shows that the average young male spends 10,000 hours online before the age of 21. That’s equal to being locked away in a screen world, night and day, for 14 whole months.
In particular, the instant gratification offered by online gaming and porn makes real-life connections problematic.
Does this mean that Generation Y no longer wants to interact with reality? In a study of 67 British teenagers carried out last year by Zimbardo and Nikita Coulombe, the co-author of the book, two out of three believed porn can become addictive and that it has a negative impact on young people’s views of sex and relationships. Four out of five thought porn was too easily accessible. Perhaps this is proof that young people know the limitations of porn rather than merely proof that they know there is a problem, as Zimbardo believes.
Teenage boys have always spent time on their own (weren’t there alarmist views during the advent of TV?). Yes, we need to embrace technology in our school curriculum and make it more male friendly; we need to encourage boys to play sport; and to participate in family mealtimes.
But my 12-year-old nephew, who spends much of his spare time gaming and whose parents are separated, is a kind, sensitive and interested boy. He’s also currently not interested in girls and their ‘silly talk’, which seems pretty normal to me.