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I have a 17 year old son who is spends a lot of time programming his computer. He does not have a girlfriend, and seems to have no interest in getting one. He rarely goes outside.

I am worried that he will become socially isolated. I am worried that lack of social activity will lower his resiliance, and make mental health problems more likely.

How can I help him develop a social life? How can I prevent him becoming socially isolated? Is being a virgin at 17 something odd or unusual or something to be worried about?

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Much better. At 17, there's not much you can do to help with his development. Most of his development has already happened. Short of taking his computer away (may not be feasible during the school year), there's nothing you can do to encourage his social development. You'll likely have to let him choose his own way. –  Noah Jun 10 at 13:26
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Just as a point, I've always been fairly introverted, I'm a computer programmer by trade, and enjoy spending time at the computer during free time, etc. While I had a few girlfriends over the years, I didn't lose my virginity till 24. All in all though, I feel like I'm perfectly healthy both physically and mentally. Different strokes for different folks - there's nothing inherently wrong with being introverted, so long as that's what they want/are comfortable with. –  Doc Jun 10 at 19:20
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As a point of interest. If you had a 17 year old daughter who was still a virgin, would you be worried about that the same way? –  Noah Jun 11 at 0:50
    
@Noah - being a virgin for a man is a symptom of a completely different underlying dynamic than for a woman, in the 21st century. –  user3143 Jun 11 at 19:24
    
I'm sure this is a dumb question, but is it possible he HAS a social life? My kids spend a ton of time on Facebook and Twitter and Snapchat, but they also get out of the house everyday. Maybe his circle of friends includes a bunch of other programmers around the globe, sitting at home and complaining that their parents are worried about them. –  MJB Jun 13 at 20:31

2 Answers 2

I will admit, I have been there and done that. Spent years of my youth stuck behind the screen gaming or programming. I eventually around 23 started getting out making friends and having a good time. It is not to late, if he is programming totally support it (I am sure you do) as if he can land a job doing something with it, that will help with his social skills. I did not get into programming professionally till I was 25 and I regret not pursuing it earlier. He could be 23 and easily making $80k a year if he sticks to it.. and with that kinda of money with no girlfriend or kids he can live a very social life then you will be coming back here "Help my son is out of control he is blowing money like it grows on trees and is out constantly partying!!", lol.

All jokes aside, I totally feel where you are coming from though, I am a "social" but anti-social kinda guy. I can survive in a crowd but my comfort is behind the keyboard. With these crazy times it may even be safer to have him stuck inside on the computer then out being social where all these crazy shootings are going on and idiots playing the "knockout" game.

I have a feeling if they had computers like this when I was a kid this post would have been from my dad as well. My best advise is especially if he is programming, support him, giving him some space and he may when ready hatch from the cocoon into something socially beautiful.

/rant.

Side Note:

I also had a friend in high school who refused to leave home, refused to get a job doing anything a normal teen would do. He was very anti-social in a sense to the point I could only get him to hang out in his drive way. He would complain if I wanted to go somewhere, I would pay to take him to movies, and theme parks as he was my good friend and I wanted to get him out but he just wasn't into leaving the house.

Now, he is a graphics designer for 343 studio's and worked on halo 4, I am sure he is probably working on the newer one as well. He is very social, lives in Austin, TX has a bunch of friends I always see him posting things with them. He was a virgin until I'd say 25yr old if I remember. Unfortunately for him he found one, snatched it up and hasn't left since so he is missing out on all the wonderful fruit to try out there but he seems to live a happy life.

I get the concern, but speaking from experience.. I believe your son is going to be just fine. There are many benefits to not being exposed to the cruel world we live in.

//rant

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i guess i will just let him be then :) –  user47086 Jun 10 at 18:26
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My father used to come down on me really hard when I was younger because of the computer. He refused to see any little applications I made and always told me I was rotting my brain away. It took 10+ years but he finally sees the fruits of my labor and couldn't be more proud. I feel the media over exaggerates the effects of the "all mighty screens" there is a lot to learn and experience that can help you grow in all areas of life. Good luck, software development has a bright future with great income and many non-standard perks over normal jobs :) –  Tony Jun 10 at 19:21
  1. Being a virgin at 17 isn't all that freakish.

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the average age Americans lose their virginities (defined here as vaginal sexual intercourse) is 17.1 for both men and women. The CDC also reports that virgins make up 12.3 percent of females and 14.3 percent of males aged 20 to 24. (src)

    So, definitely don't make him feel bad over it - among other reasons, thinking he's a freak for not having romantic partners is very likely contributing big deal to his social isolation in the first place.

  2. Having said that, being socially isolated IS bad, because social skills are like any other skill - they have to be learned and practiced or you don't learn them.

    As a personal example: I let the best woman I ever met slip through my fingers, because at the age I met her I was an awkward geek with no idea of how to ask a girl out and she intimidated me (the worst part - 10 years later, she admitted that SHE was into me, and let me slip through her fingers, because being an awkward geek, she didn't know how to tell me of her interest).

  3. As a parent, the BEST thing you can do for your son is to:

    A. Be supportive. Encourage him to go out, once in a while (bribe him if needed - e.g. money for new computer parts for asking a girl out on a date and going).

    But do it for the right reasons - NOT because he's a freak/loser for not doing so; but because it's needed for his long term goals.

    Explain that social and romantic success don't just happen - you need to work at it. It's a numbers game. You go out with tons of people to gain the skills and confidence to do it "right" - and you go out with tons of people before you can find out someone you mutually click with.

    B. Be brutally honest about LONG term consequences. Yes right now he doesn't care about being a socially isolated loner. When he at some point meets a girl of his dreams, does he REALLY want to spend the rest of his life biting his elbow because he let her slip through his fingers due to lack of social skills that he could have been practicing?

    C. Talk to him on his level. If he's a nerd, let him read Nerd Fitness blog (aside from fitness, they also had great articles on leveling up one's social skills, including why it's important AND how to do this, all aimed at the people like him FROM people like him).

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