Young men today are failing academically, socially and romantically, Stanford University psychologist Philip G. Zimbardo, PhD, said at a symposium Wednesday. Compared with decades past, the current generation of young men is “putting off adulthood” — living with their parents indefinitely, not joining youth groups or sports teams, growing overweight, receiving low SAT scores and struggling to build relationships outside of virtual reality, he said.
“I am here today to sound a national disaster alarm,” said Zimbardo, who calls this phenomenon “The demise of guys,” and has written a book by the same name.
Meanwhile, Zimbardo said, women are excelling. Last year, for example, women received majority of degrees awarded in every higher education field and they currently dominate 12 of the 15 fastest-growing industries. And while there’s still a pay gap favoring men, it’s closing, he said.
Zimbardo attributes many of the challenges of guys today to the Internet. Young men are online — often gaming or watching porn in isolation — 43 hours a week on average, he said. That’s time they could be exercising, building social skills and contributing to society, he said.
What’s more, as marriage rates decline, boys are missing out on father figures. Of those boys who do have dads, just 30 minutes a week are spent talking to them.
There’s also a widening gap between young men’s and young women’s social skills, including how they express and control their emotions, said Zimbardo’s co-participant Ronald E. Riggio, PhD, of Claremont McKenna College. That’s important not only for social and romantic relationships, but for business, he said. “More and more in leadership, the soft skills are what’s important.”
But such social skills can be learned through trainings, courses and practice, the participants emphasized. “No one is born with the gift of gab,” said symposium chair Bernardo J. Carducci, PhD, of Indiana University Southeast and author of “The Pocket Guide to Making Successful Small Talk.”
Carducci described interventions increasingly used in colleges that essentially help young people make conversation, connections and friends — and in effect, stay in school. “The No. 1 problem freshmen report is not ‘the classes are too hard,’ it’s ‘I don’t have any friends. I don’t know how to make friends. I feel lonely, I feel isolated,’” he said. “And we know when people are isolated, when they’re lonely, when they don’t connect to their university, they’re much more likely to leave the university, they’re much more likely to drop out.”
Watch Zimbardo’s TED Talk on “The Demise of Guys” here: