Boyhood In Peril – The Battle To Raise Healthy, Thriving Boys Into Men in A Chaotic World
Much has been written in the past decade about the troubled inner and outer lives of boys. The positions the ‘experts’ take vary between disturbing books on their damaged and wounded inner and emotional lives written by psychologists who have risen to national prominence as they’ve become best selling authors, to articles like the cover story in Time Magazine debunking the best sellers and claiming that all is in fact well, and all that is really needed is to let boys be boys and follow the “dangerous book” they’ll find on the other shelf – a book that has also become a best seller.
What are we to believe? Here are the facts as are now well researched:
- 1000 studies link extensive viewing of graphic violent images, with more violent behavior.
- 50% of video games contain excessive graphic violence. This number is growing.
- By age 12 the average American male will have viewed 100,000 images of graphic violence. By age 18 that number doubles.
- The US military uses video games to desensitize soldiers to killing
- Excessive screen times inhibits sensory awareness development in the brain
- Excessive screen times disturbs sleeping patterns
- A comprehensive University of Alberta study found 1 in 3 boys are heavy porn users
- 1/2 of young adult males in a recent survey preferred porn to the real thing
- A growing number of young adult males suffer from sexual dysfunction
- Male sperm counts are half of what they were 50 years ago
- Males commit 95% of violent crimes
- College enrollment for males has dropped dramatically in the past 30 years. In 1980 men represented 58 percent of the undergraduate student body. Now they’re a minority at 44 percent.
- Boys make up 75% of students diagnosed with learning disabilities.
- Nearly 6% of boys ages 6 to 17 are diagnosed and medically treated for ADHD
- Nearly five times as many males as females ages 15 to 19 died by suicide. This is the third leading cause of death among teens.
- 40% of youth in America are growing up without a father living in their primary home
- The average American father spends 30 minutes a week of time with his kids. Half of that is spent watching TV.
- Parents in “wired” homes spend on average 4 minutes a day of uninterrupted time with their kids
- In 1950, teens spent 5 times as much time with adults as they did with their peers. In 2010, teens spend 5 times as much time with peers than they do adults.
- Today’s No Child Left Behind School standards demand kindergartners be able to do what first graders were once expected to do. Most boys brains do not develop these functions – especially fine motor and capacity to sit and focus, until they are older.
- The dominant youth culture now has replaced “Dating” with the “instant gratification, no strings attached” practice of “Hooking-Up”. Boys (and girls) are not having the critical experiences needed to develop emotional maturity and the capacity for sustained intimacy
Parents need to have:
- Strict video gaming policies.
- Close monitoring of online activities
- Regular healthy challenges for boys to master
- Strong advocating for their son’s schooling and close involvement with the curriculum
- A system to ensure their son gets real life education and the opportunities to practice real life skills
- A continually updated relationship with their sons
- A community of elders – particularly men – who are closely and personally involved in their son’s lives in an on-going way.
Raising boys into men who will thrive in the 21st Century demands more than just going backwards to a simpler time and simpler approach. It demands parents be up to date, involved, in-tune with not just youth culture, but with the trends that are lighting the way to the emerging economic world. Those who do so are already noticing more popular media attention regarding alternatives to traditional college, the importance of training in entrepreneurism, the devastating impact of environmental toxins, complacency and deprivation of contact with the natural world.
Do not rely on institutions and machines to raise your son. It is up to you as your son’s parent to ensure he grows into a young man who is prepared for modern reality, with the capacity for intimacy, the values for contribution and the skills to ensure he succeeds in leading an extraordinary life. The task has in many ways, never been more challenging.