Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Cognitive and Emotional Decline of Teenage Boys

Stanford U psychologist Philip Zimbardo's e-book The Demise of Guys: Why Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It sells for only $2.99 at amazon.com (Kindle). I picked it up. It's getting a lot of reviews, and creating controversy.

Zimbardo is an excellent writer, and a good scholar (he's taught at Stanford, Yale, NYU, and Columbia). He's not an abusive writer, but looks at culture and interprets, to include raising concerns when he has them. Here's a concern from his new book.

"People spend a collective 3 billion hours a week playing video games. A week. Additionally, more than 174 million Americans are gamers. Jane McGonigal, director of game research and development at the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Calif., estimates that the average young person will spend 10,000 hours gaming by age 21." (Kindle Locations 109-112)

Yikes! That's 416 days. Over one year. Dedicated to...  video gaming. In half that time the average college student can earn a bachelor's degree.

Welcome to the shallows. This cognitive and emotional vacuity is reflected in statistics such as:

  • By eighth grade only 20 percent of boys are proficient in writing and 24 percent proficient in reading.
  • Young men’s SAT scores, meanwhile, in 2011 were the worst they’ve been in 40 years.
  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of both high school and college.
  • In Canada, five boys drop out of school for every three girls who do.
  • Nationally, boys account for 70 percent of all the D’s and F’s given out at school.
  • It is predicted that women will earn 60 percent of bachelor’s, 63 percent of master’s and 54 percent of doctorate degrees by 2016.
  • Two-thirds of students in special education remedial programs are guys. These effects are much greater for males from minority backgrounds.
  • The NCES also reported that boys are four to five times more likely than girls to be labeled as having attention-deficit (hyperactivity) disorder (ADHD), and therefore are more likely to be prescribed stimulants, such as Ritalin, even in elementary school.
And what about porn?
  • America is the top producer of pornographic Web pages, with 244.6 million, or 89 percent, of all porn Web pages worldwide.
  • One in three boys is now considered a “heavy” porn user, with the average boy watching nearly two hours of porn every week, according to University of Alberta (Canada) researcher Sonya Thompson. (That's just the "average" porn-using boy.)
  • One consequence of teenage boys watching many hours of Internet pornography every week... is that young men don’t know the difference between making love and doing porn.
As any sociologist and psychologist of culture knows, this new kind of "addictive arousal" is having social consequences.