Over the years, a cause for teen angst, suicide, etc., has reportedly been the media. But there is no definitive evidence to corroborate that. In fact, every recent generation has traditionally pointed to the media or some other cultural factor as damaging to youth. In the 1920s, it was the Charleston, and in the 1940s, the bogeyman was radio crime dramas. Then in the 1950s, it was shoot-em-up westerns on TV and the advent of rock ‘n roll. But at the end of the day, most kids grew up normally.
These days cell phones and social media are supposedly culpable, but scientists still don’t know to what extent they are responsible for the rising mental health issues among teenagers and whether it is the primary cause. Alexey Makarin, Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist, opines, “It seems to be the case — like it’s a big factor, but that’s still up for debate.”
What do we know?
A report from the CDC in February found that teen girls are experiencing “record high levels of violence, sadness, and suicide risk.” The data show that 57% of U.S. teen girls felt “persistently sad or hopeless in 2021—double that of boys, representing a nearly 60% increase and the highest level reported over the past decade.” About 30% had seriously attempted suicide. These numbers are dramatically higher than they were ten years ago.
Boys are suffering too. One of the main culprits for young males’ problems is the ongoing stress on so-called toxic masculinity, where feminists and the left take normal male behavior, exaggerate it, and then vilify it.
Toxic masculinity is a counterproductive term, to say the least. Boys are unlikely to react well to the idea that there is something toxic inside them that needs to be exorcised, especially as most of them identify quite strongly with their masculinity. Almost half of men said their sex was “extremely important” to their identity.
As Brookings Institution fellow Richard Reeves reports, “Half of American men and almost a third of women (30%) now think that society ‘punishes men just for acting like men,’ according to a survey by the Public Religion Research Institute.
Who specifically is behind the problems being experienced by the young?
While Covid-related social isolation certainly exacerbated girls’ problems, things were not good before we overreacted to the pandemic. Before Covid, the reason typically given was the advancement of social media, which cut back on personal bonding, but, as noted above, that is questionable.
With boys, it’s certainly institutional. In 2019, Scientific American posted an article entitled “How to Fight Toxic Masculinity,” and the American Psychological Association declared that “traditional masculinity is psychologically harmful.” In fact, the APA is front and center in the war on boys. Christopher Ferguson, a psychology professor at Florida’s Stetson University, writes that a few years ago, the APA released practice guidelines that state, “Conforming to traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males’ psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict, and negatively influence mental health and physical health.” The guidelines also claim that “traditional masculinity leads to violence.”
Who else is behind our culture’s malevolent turn toward young people?
Many school districts have decided to take over the traditional role of parents, and this, I believe, is a very important factor in the alienation of the young.
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