Our Creative Director, Brianne, recently came across an interesting article that studied the choices parents make regarding devices they give their children. It looks like gender plays a major role in the decisions parents make in two primary ways: protection and placation. Parents are far more likely to give their daughters tablets geared toward kids, while they give their sons smartphones. Also, parents are more likely to give their sons devices when the child is acting out, where they choose other measures of discipline and distraction for their daughters.
On the one hand it makes sense; girls are nearly twice as likely to be victims of cyberbullying than are boys, three times more likely to be the targets of sexual predators, and notably more likely to be victims of violent crime. Of course parents feel more protective and their choices reflect that instinct.
However, one fears that a kind of unintentional sexism may also be at work. As Business Wire points out, “Whether conscious or unconscious, parents are more likely to take into consideration their son’s preferences, while seeming to be more protective when it comes to choosing for their daughter.” There is something very close to Susan Fiske’s concept of Benevolent Sexism to this idea.
Until we reach the easy answer — ending the culture of victimization — there is no easy answer. Parents want to make the right choices for their children, and the systemic problem is rooted far deeper than a device. However, it is worth noting that if the only function parents are taking from their daughters is the ability to use phone service, as is the major distinction between most tablets and smartphones, they might be taking away the opportunity to call for help should an emergency take place.