Research: Child Gender Informs Parental Attitudes about Tech

A new study suggests that parents' perceptions about their children's technology use is influenced by the child's gender, the type of device used and perceived educational value.

Conducted by PlayScience, the study is based on a survey of 501 parents with children aged two-nine years and was presented at MIT's Sandbox Summit.

Key findings of the report include:

  • Parents who responded were three times more likely to say they would give a boy a smartphone or video game device;
  • Parents were more likely, at 73 percent, to say they'd give their daughters a tablet than their sons, at 65 percent;
  • Child friendliness was most often cited as the most important factor in choosing a device for girls, at 30 percent, but only 17 percent said it was the most important factor in choosing a device for boys;
  • The child's preference was most commonly cited as the biggest factor in choosing a device for boys, at 27 percent, as compared to just 21 percent of the time for girls;
  • Technology is more often used to manage boys, with 48 percent of respondents saying they use devices to get soothe boys when they're upset and 42 percent saying they use them to get boys to bed, versus 37 percent and 34 percent, respectively, for girls; and
  • Tablets were the preferred devices for children among parent respondents, with survey participants being four times more likely to say that tablets are the most educational devices available than to say the same of smartphones.

"Ironically, parents have distinct and very different perceptions about devices, even when they have almost identical content. Even more surprising, gender plays a significant role in the platform chosen," said J. Alison Bryant, co-CEO and chief play officer at PlayScience, in a prepared statement. "This study puts parents on notice to be more attentive to their attitudes and behaviors about their children's media use. 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."

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].