Thursday, June 21, 2012

My Teen Son Doesn't Read Anymore -- It's Girly

My teen son doesn't read anymore. He thinks it's girly. This is what a mom said to me the other day. Her son read in elementary school but now refuses to touch a book on his "free time". Fact is most male teens these days do not read books for entertainment. Have educators, parents, authors, and even publishers lost touch with the male teen? Are we capable of relating to them? And what in the world are these teens doing with their "free time"? Considering almost all American teens have played video games, and a majority play video games regularly, drink these statistics in before you answer:

  • Teenage Involvement: Approximately 90% of teens have played video games at least once, with a majority of teens playing regularly.(1).
  • Availability: 83 percent of young people aged 8 to 18 have access to a game player in their own home. 31 percent have 3 or more game players in their own home. About half of all teens have a video game system in their own bedroom (7).
  • Gender Differences: According to video game industry sources, at least 90 percent of American boys -between the ages of 8 to 18 years- and 40% of American girls play video games. Boys play much more frequently, and for much longer periods of time than do girls. 33% of female gamers report that they only play video games once per month. That’s compared to about 10% of male gamers.
  • Significant Time Use: According to a Harris Poll, the average teenager spends 13 hours per week playing video games.
  • Opportunity Costs: On average, kids who play video games regularly, spend 30% less time reading and 34% less time doing homework than the average non-gamer.(10)
  • Frequency of Violence: As early as 2001, the Children Now Organization found that 89% of all video games contained violence. That’s not to say that all teens play the hyper-violent games, but nine of the top ten video games of 2009 were rated mature.
  • Evidence of Addictive Behaviors: Many video game players report that the activity creates a feeling of entertainment, relaxation, recreation, and enjoyment. However, about 8% reported that their game playing made them feel dominated by the demands of the game, made them seek increased levels of stimulation to continue playing, caused them to experience withdrawal symptoms when they were unable to play, brought them into conflict with other individuals, and had reported that they were unable to quit playing the games. Boys were four times more likely to report this feeling than girls. (2)
  • Parental Supervision: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, about one in five game players have parents who set rules about which games are allowed to be played. 17% reported that their parents check warning labels or ratings on their games, and 12% stated they routinely played games they knew their parents  do not want them to play . (3). In 2000, a United States Senate hearing heard testimony that as much as 90% of parents either didn’t check, or didn’t understand the video game ratings displayed on the package. (4) Polling data reveals that most parents cannot name their own 3rd to 5th grader’s favorite game. (5) And nearly 70% of parents surveyed say they do not play video games with their children. (6)
  • Huge Industry: In 2011 the monetary volume of video game sales in the United States was $17 billion (8) . The yearly revenue for video gaming in the US is currently 3 times the combined revenues of the NFL and NASCAR.

Still not convinced by the statistics? Try this: Locate your average high school male gamer and tell him that there is this book titled Scar and that you think he’ll like it. If he’s like the majority of male teens I know, he’ll snicker and say that unless it’s about a real SCAR, a Special Forces Combat Assault Rifle, like the one he uses in his Modern Warfare 3 video game, he’s not interested. Educators, parents, authors, and even publishers, it’s sad but we have lost touch with the male teen because he is likely a gamer. But this doesn't mean you can't relate to them. If you want the video-gaming-digital-native male teen to read for entertainment you can't be afraid to get into the ring with him. Adjust your taboo meter to low and approach the subject of guns, war and violence. These kids are drawn to it like a moth to light. Parents, educators and librarians, pickup a copy of these gaming magazines: iGamer Magazine, PC Gamer, PlayStation: The Official Magazine and The Official Xbox Magazine. Authors and publishers do the same but take it a step further. Play some of the popular games, and then start writing for these kids. Produce what they want and they will read it.

1. Rainie: Pew Internet and American Life Project
2. Douglas Gentile, Iowa State University
3. Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout,: Kaiser family Foundation
4. Walsh, Testimony to the United States Senate, 2000
5. Funk, Hagan, and Schimming
6. Lenhart: Pew Internet and American Life Project
7. Roberts, Foeher, and Rideout
8. NPD Group, Inc.
9. CNET News
10. The Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine. Smith, Jeremy A; Playing the Name Game.

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