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PETER BILES: Gen Z Needs To Put Down The Phone And Go On A Date

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Peter Biles Contributor
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Here’s a simple fact: American birth rates have witnessed a startling decline over the past two decades.

The necessary replacement birthrate is 2.1 births per woman. In 2023, the American birthrate dropped to 1.62 births per woman, the lowest birthrate since 1979.

In addition, marriage rates (and divorce rates) dropped from 2009-2019, according to the United States Census Bureau. (RELATED: PETER BILES: Gen Z Is In Big Trouble)

The young cultural commentator Freya India sounds the alarm in this video from Triggernometry: “In the U.S., 45% of women are expected to be unmarried and childless by the year 2030.”

That’s a chilling number and a frightening prediction for the upcoming generation.

Those commonly referred to as “Gen Z,” the generation born approximately between 1995 and 2012, are increasingly evading dating and marriage, opting for a risk-averse, screen-dominated existence. Why?

Growing up in a “phone-based” childhood, where kids are “overprotected … in the real world and underprotected … in the virtual world,” as social psychologist Jonathan Haidt writes, could be largely to blame.

There are plenty of reasons young men and women might be Snapchatting each other in the dark but never speaking a real word to each other. Smartphones foster the illusion of community and connection but conveniently amputate the demand for commitment, awkward social interaction, and just the plain difficulty in forming and sustaining a relationship. While older generations clawed at the door to get their drivers’ licenses, “Zoomers” are shrugging it off and nabbing Ubers to scoop some midnight Taco Bell.

In addition, Gen Z men and women are veering in separate political ways, with young women becoming more liberal while young men are not. Young liberal women in particular are not willing to date someone with different political views.

This may explain why conservative religious couples report some of the happiest marriages; they have deeper values than just politics to guide their decisions of who to date and marry. Married religious couples actually report the highest satisfaction in their sex lives, too. “The research tells us that American men and women who regularly attend church are significantly happier in their marriages less, likely to end up divorced, and more satisfied with their lives,” writes marriage researcher Brad Wilcox.

Jonathan Haidt lays out some policy suggestions in his new book “The Anxious Generation” to help the younger portion of Gen Z get straightened out and prepared for adulthood. These include phone-free schools, no social media until age 16, and age verification on social media and porn sites. He also encourages parents to let their kids play independently so they can learn how to take risks.

In addition, married couples could be given government incentives, such as tax cuts, as well as further benefits for having children, like Hungary has done.

At the end of the day, though, my generation has to make the choice to start taking some risks, even if means getting hurt in the process.

The great Oxford don and author C.S. Lewis put the problem of risk aversion in a striking way in one of his most famous quotes, which can be found in his book “The Four Loves,” writing:

“Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness…To love is to be vulnerable.”

The consequences of the decline of dating, marriage, and birth rates extend beyond the population problem and Gen Z’s mental health crisis. To avoid relational risks at all costs is to put oneself in spiritual danger. How can I learn how to love and understand other people if I’m stuck behind a screen all day? I can’t. I’ll eventually stop caring about the real world and real people in preference for the virtual.

The best thing young people can do, me included, is to stop sending the Snapchats or the text messages, to quit the porn and the video games, and do a terrifying thing: Have a cup of coffee in person and actually talkCrazy, I know.

But it might just end up saving the world.

Peter Biles is the author of Hillbilly Hymn and Keep & Other Stories and is a contributing writer at Mind Matters News. 

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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