Gaming. Isolation. Porn. How a generation of boys is losing its way

In today’s uncertain world, many young men are gravitating to an online world offering the illusion of ultimate control.

Research shows that the fear of social rejection has risen steeply. Today, six out of ten adolescents (and adults) describe themselves as “shy.” That’s a 50% increase since the 1980s. 

Partly, this is the result of technology, which has drastically reduced face-to-face - or even voice-to-voice - interaction. 

Yes, thanks to the online world, we are “more connected” than ever before. But it’s the nature of those connections that has experts concerned, especially in the case of boys with limited social skills.

“In one sense, online communication enables the very shy to make contact more easily with others,” explains sociologist Philip Zimbardo, “though we believe it then makes real life connection even more difficult.”

The effect is magnified as boys retreat to the perceived safety of online spaces, especially games and pornography. In both of these fantasy worlds, the risk of rejection is low to non-existent, and the ability to control outcomes - to “succeed” - is high. 

EpicGamesThe appeal to boys who are already lacking in social confidence can prove irresistible. And as time online ramps up and up and up, warns Zimbardo, “the external world shrinks to the size of Billy’s bedroom.”

Of course, girls enjoy gaming too, but they don’t rack up nearly the same amount of gaming screen-time: about five hours a week compared to boys’ 13 hours. 

And the social isolation gaming encourages can easily lead to more problematic habits around pornography.

The average boy watches nearly two hours of online porn a week, studies show.

One-third of boys is now considered a “heavy” porn user, according to research by the University of Alberta. 

One widely reported consequence is that teen boys are increasingly treating their girlfriends like sex objects - and expecting them to respond like porn stars. Another disturbing effect is young men being dependent on porn for arousal to have real sex.

The documented addictiveness of both gaming and porn can too easily lead interest or curiosity to become all-consuming compulsions. 

What parents can do 

Like every other expert on the impact of technology on children, Zimbardo urges parents to move their son’s computer or laptop out of the bedroom and into a shared space in the house.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found enforcing rules around screen-time at night resulted in kids getting nearly an hour more sleep each night.

Imposing limits on nighttime device use is also essential. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found enforcing rules around screen-time at night resulted in kids getting nearly an hour more sleep each night.

Interestingly, the same study also found that mums and dads were up to three times more effective at enforcing rules when they removed their own devices from their own bedrooms.

gaming

 As for gaming consoles, experts advise parents to follow a   planned withdrawal program rather than force a child to go  cold turkey.

 “If a game really is the only place where a teen can feel in   control, rewarded, and happy, then simply taking all of that away could be devastating for him,” says Game Addiction author Neils Clark.

Notes Zimbardo, ”We predict that in the years to come, as awareness increases, parents will treat video games more like junk food and society will treat high-speed Internet porn more like cigarettes.”

 

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Topics: Cyber Bullying, Parental Controls, Screen time, Pornography, Mobile Apps, Excessive Device Usage, online pornography, gaming addiction, gaming disorder, social isolation

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