Originally posted: Newport Academy website

“Is it okay if my son stays in his room all the time?” That’s a question that parents of teen boys are asking frequently these days. With online school and fewer activities outside the home, teens are spending hours upon hours in their rooms, in front of their screens.

Teenagers do need privacy and a space to call their own, especially with everyone at home more often these days. However, being cooped up and plugged in for the majority of the day isn’t good for a teen boy’s physical or mental health.

The Effects of Isolation on Teens

While online learning for teens is necessary during the pandemic, many adolescents are struggling with the effects of isolation. In a survey of 1,000 teens conducted in October by DKC Analytics, more than half reported having grown apart from friends over the past months. Moreover, 64 percent of participants reported that they have often felt lonely as a result of the pandemic. In fact, teen loneliness ranked at the top of the list of experiences—above feeling depressed (54 percent), worried (62 percent), and angry (41 percent).

Beyond teen loneliness, other effects of social isolation in high school students include:

  • More screen time as a result of remote learning and online recreation and socializing
  • Less exercise
  • Worse eating habits
  • Increased anxiety, depression, and collective trauma in teen boys as well as girls.

The combination of these factors is prompting growing concern around the issue of “my son stays in his room all the time.” While some research shows that adolescent girls report higher levels of depression and anxiety than boys, this may be because teen boys are less likely to report or talk about their emotions.

Teen Boys and the ‘Crisis of Connection’

The current lack of in-person interaction for teens has a particularly negative impact for boys, because they tend to bond through activities rather than conversation. Studies show that teen boys talk less often about their problems than girls do, send shorter texts, and don’t text much with other boys. By contrast, girls have more extensive and ongoing text conversations. That puts boys at a disadvantage when it comes to having supportive online connection with friends.

These gender differences in communication and friendship styles contribute to what author and psychology professor Niobe Way describes as a “crisis of connection” among adolescent males. As young boys, male friends tend to share their deepest secrets and most intimate feelings with each other, Way says. But as boys reach age 15 or 16, they begin to shut down in response to a culture that discourages emotional intimacy between men. “Our culture prizes independence over human connection. It devalues and even discourages close friendships, particularly among boys and men,” Way writes. While research in this area is new, at least one study suggests that such typically “male” socialized behaviors are also internalized and demonstrated by transgender boys.

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