Jonathan Haidt, the well-respected social psychologist, wrote an article in The Free Press titled “I’m Worried About the Boys, Too.” In it he admits, “I am extremely concerned about what is happening to girls, and to boys as well … But the struggles of boys have received far less attention.  I hope that is now changing.  We can, and must, figure out how to help boys and men flourish, too.”

He acknowledges, “Back when I was focused on anxiety and depression as the dependent variables, the story of technology seemed to be … mostly about girls … For boys and young men, the key change has been the retreat from the real world since the 1970’s, when they began investing less effort in school, employment, dating, marriage, and parenting.”  

Haidt maintains, “Boys started to become more pessimistic around four decades ago, although the trend has accelerated in the years since everyone got a smartphone.”  The virtual world has been like a siren song that has been more sweeter to boys rather than girls.  Why?  It has to do with the psychological sex differences – “people vs. things.”  “Boys are more attracted to things, machines, and complex systems that can be manipulated, while girls are more attracted to people; they are more interested in what those people are thinking and feeling.”

The virtual world seems magical for many boys.  It has allowed them to interact with new gadgets, while providing a safe place to do the “sorts of things they find extremely exciting but not available in real life” – such as meeting a group of friends to play war games. Haidt points out, “Just as video games became more finely tuned to boys’ greater propensity for coalitional competition, the real world, and especially school got more frustrating for many boys: shorter recess, bans on rough and tumble play, and even more emphasis on sitting still and listening.”

To understand what’s happening to the mental health of boys, Haidt maintains that “we must use a “push-pull” analysis … what were the factors pushing them away from investing in real-world pursuits? And what were the factors pulling them into the virtual world?” Haidt warns, “The virtual world is becoming ever more immersive and addictive.  Every year it will pull harder and harder on boys, urging them to abandon the real world.”  Then he makes this obvious statement: “We’ve got to make the real world more appealing for them.” 

Haidt’s article cries out for godly men to “father” their sons.  Our culture can never replace a father’s godly example and instruction.  First and foremost, young men have only one father.  Men, our responsibility is to raise up godly younger men.  Prov. 4:20-23 tells us, “My son, pay attention to my words; listen closely to my sayings.  Don’t lose sight of them; keep them within your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, and health to one’s whole body” (CSB).  These words give a picture of intense, personal, and heartfelt passing on of Godly wisdom.

This involves men who: 1) walk the talk, 2) are deeply involved in the lives of our sons, 3) are passionate about life,  4) speak from personal experience, and 5) above all, attempt to be a living, humble exemplar.  Be encouraged by Paul words to young Timothy: “Hold on to the pattern of wholesome teaching you learned from me – a pattern shaped by the faith and love that you have in Christ Jesus.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit who lives within us, carefully guard to precious truth that has been entrusted to you” (NLT).  Remember, trust what has been deposited by your example in word and deed.