Culture Clips: Do Video Games Undermine Young Men’s Will to Work?

The unemployment rate for men in their 20s has been rising for about 15 years now. Yet, curiously, a higher percentage say that they’re happier these days. What gives? Could it be that men who aren’t working are busily filling their days with … video games?  

University of Chicago economist Erik Hurst looked into this potential correlation, and he suggests that might just be the case, especially among those who still live with their parents: “We have determined that, in general, [lower-skilled young men] are not going back to school or switching careers, so what are they doing with their time? The hours that they are not working have been replaced almost one for one with leisure time. Seventy-five percent of this new leisure time falls into one category: video games.”

Meanwhile, New York Times writer Matt Richtel is probing another screen time-and-behavior correlation: the question of whether or not teenagers’ declining drug use is due in part to the fact that they’re spending so much time on their smartphones.

And lest you think we’re going too hard on youngsters here for their tech habits, parents got some attention in the news this week, too. Christian leadership expert Tim Elmore has a blunt message to smartphone-addicted parents: “Get off your phone.” Elmore says he’s hearing from more and more young people who struggle to connect with their parents because of those adults’ compulsive smartphone habits.

But there’s a flip side to this. In her New York Times article “The Guilty Secret of Distracted Parenting,” Dr. Perri Klass suggests that we need to be careful about beating up on parents when it comes to this modern reality, as we may be compounding their sense that they’re failures at raising their children.

And we’re not done yet with all this screen time stuff. The Wall Street Journal reports that the amount of screen time teens get before it starts to impact them negatively might be more than some of us would think. Specifically, researchers found that up to 1.5 to 2 hours of smartphone use and 3 to 4 hours of video game playing had no negative impact on teen’s mental wellbeing. (We should say, though, that the article also noted that it’s actually healthy for kids to wrestle with boredom instead of always short-circuiting it with screens.)

Moving on to news from the slightly larger screen—the one in your living room—the Huffington Post reports that NBC’s “family sitcom” The Carmichael Show will begin airing uncensored uses of the n-word in episodes this summer. And over on HBO’s Sesame Street, the iconic children’s program is making news (in a positive way) for adding its first autistic muppet, a character named Julia, to the cast.

Elsewhere in the television universe, Tim Allen (Home Improvement, Last Man Standing) compared being a conservative in Hollywood to living in “’30s Germany.” And in a Hollywood Reporter story, reporter Stephen Galloway ponders the increasingly vitriolic political climate in Tinseltown, suggesting that a new age of McCarthyism may be settling over the industry.

Shifting to the music world, Katy Perry made news this week speaking at the Human Rights Campain’s gala dinner in Los Angeles, in which she said admitted that she was experimenting with same-sex behaviors even as she was still in the Christian music scene: “I’m just a singer/songwriter, honestly,” she said. “I speak my truths, and I paint my fantasies into these little bite-sized pop songs. For instance: ‘I Kissed A Girl And I Liked It.’ Truth be told, a) I did more than that, and b) how was I going to reconcile that with a gospel-singing girl raised in youth groups that were pro-conversion camps?”

Finally, as we reported in our Plugged In blog yesterday, rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Chuck Berry passed away over the weekend at the age of 90. Among the many, many musical icons who weighed in on Berry’s legacy was Bruce Springsteen, who tweeted, “Chuck Berry was rock’s greatest practitioner, guitarist, and the greatest pure rock ‘n’ roll writer who ever lived.” For an in-depth look at Chuck Berry’s influence in the pop music world, check out David A. Graham’s detail-filled article in The Atlantic, “Remembering Chuck Berry.”

Who wrote this?

Adam R. Holz is a senior associate editor for Plugged In. He also writes for Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse magazine and has been a Boundless contributor. In his free time (which there is sometimes precious little of) Adam enjoys playing guitar and constructing LEGO kits with his son. Adam and his wife, Jennifer, are the proud parents, in fact, of three children, one boy and two girls.

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