Boys vs. girls on cellphones
We've heard about the gender divide in knowledge and use of technology. It seems the gap may start with the simplest of technologies -- cellphones -- and at a fairly young age -- middle school.
For a study published in December in the journal New Media and Society, University of Alabama at Birmingham sociologist Shelia Cotten asked nearly 1,000 middle school students to rate the different ways they used their cellphones.
The results showed boys much more than girls used their phones to play games, share photos and videos, listen to music and send e-mails. Girls tended to use their phones primarily for talking and or text messaging.
To the researchers' surprise, the boys used the phones for talking and texting just as much as the girls -- in other words, they didn't use the "complicated features" instead of socializing, but in addition to it. "We would've expected that girls would use cellphones for talking and texting because females are socialized to communicate more with others than males," said Cotten in an online video presentation of her research, "but there were no differences."
"By these study results, we aren't saying that parents should buy phones with fewer features for girls," she said. "But it does point out how much more needs to be done to teach girls" about technology. "Females traditionally have perceived themselves as less skilled in terms of technology, especially with regard to computers."
Cotten said that 60 to 70 percent of middle school kids report owning a cellphone.
-- Margaret Shapiro