Study: Parent’s digital choices for their children heavily influenced by gender


A new study unveiled yesterday at the MIT Sandbox Summit by children’s research firm PlayScience shows that parents’ perceptions about their children’s technology use is heavily influenced by the child’s gender.

The Parents and Platform Perceptions study was conducted through a survey of 501 parents with children between 2 and 9 years old. The parents were asked various questions relating to their child’s technology habits, including which devices they owned, which devices the children had access to, when and why the children used the devices, and what their attitudes were toward each device.

The study showed that tablets, particularly children’s tablets, were far and away the most popular choice for parents, with the majority of parents saying that the children’s tablets were the device that they preferred that their child spend the most time on. Kids also tend to like tablets, with about 50 percent of parents reporting that their child likes them the most.

When parents choose media for their child to consume, which media they choose tends to depend on whether the child is a boy or a girl. For girls, 30 percent of parents choose media based on whether it was deemed “child-friendly,” as opposed to just 17 percent of parents of boys. However, 27 percent of boys’ parents choose the media based on what the child wants them to buy, compared to 21 percent of girls.

“Ironically, parents have distinct and very different perceptions about devices, even when they have almost identical content,” said Dr. J. Alison Bryant, co-chief executive and chief play officer at PlayScience, in a statement. “This study puts parents on notice to be more attentive to their attitudes and behaviors about their children’s media use.”

The study also found that parents were about three times more likely (21 percent versus 7 percent) to prefer that boys spend time playing video games. They were also slightly more likely to use technology to manage the behavior of boys, such as getting them to go to bed or calming them down when they’re upset.

PlayScience is a company that partners with brands to help them innovate and develop content for children’s play and education. The Sandbox Summit is an annual conference focused on the intersection between play and education and entertainment. The summit is hosted by PlayScience, in collaboration with MIT’s Education Arcade and Comparative Media Studies.

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