Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain

Stephanie Rosenbloom, NYT:

Research shows that among the youngest Internet users, the primary creators of Web content (blogs, graphics, photographs, Web sites) are not misfits resembling the Lone Gunmen of “The X Files.” On the contrary, the cyberpioneers of the moment are digitally effusive teenage girls.

“Most guys don’t have patience for this kind of thing,” said Nicole Dominguez, 13, of Miramar, Fla., whose hobbies include designing free icons, layouts and “glitters” (shimmering animations) for the Web and MySpace pages of other teenagers. “It’s really hard.”


Teasing out why girls are prolific Web content creators usually leads to speculation and generalization. Although girls have outperformed boys in reading and writing for years, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, this does not automatically translate into a collective yen to blog or sign up for a MySpace page. Rather, some scholars argue, girls are the dominant online content creators because both sexes are influenced by cultural expectations.

“Girls are trained to make stories about themselves,” said Pat Gill, the interim director for the Institute for Communications Research and an associate professor of gender and women’s studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

After work today, I stopped by the house of a colleague who had asked me to teach her about blogging.  Her eighth-grade daughter watched and kept nodding, nodding while I talked about the various options. She sparkled with happiness when I showed her where the style settings were, and urged her mother to start personalizing the blog right away. She already knows how to do HTML, and even knew about cascading style sheets. I was impressed!

As I was getting ready to go home, she pointed to a huge professional photograph of a ballerina hanging over the computer and said “That’s me!”  The young lady had danced the role of Clara in The Nutcracker this Christmas, and the photo was taken for the lobby display.

I wonder whether boys are more likely to contribute to message boards… I haven’t read this Pew study yet, I’ve got some other things on my plate I’ll have to do first, but I always find the Pew reports insightful.

3 thoughts on “Sorry, Boys, This Is Our Domain

  1. Having two boys myself, I would not have ever guessed about this trend. I think it is very interesting and we have a lot of readers who might not have considered this as a path to technology education for girls. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for your comment.
    My colleague hasn’t yet decided whether she will take the plunge into the world of blogging, but I’m glad she let me give her the pitch.
    A strong male sports program was a definite part of SHU’s growth plan in the past few years. It’s unusual for a small school like ours to have a football team, especially considering that until shortly before I was hired we were a women’s college. But the football team led to cheerleaders and a marching band and other extra-curriculars that can enhance the college experience. My current “Intro to Literary Study” class has taken to blogging extremely well… I think most students last year just thought of it as homework, but this time around there’s a core of students who are taking the extra time to write clever headlines and links, and students are commenting on the strategies their peers are using to get people to read and comment on their postings. There are only two men in a class of about 20, so it’s impossible to make any gender-based assumptions.

  3. I recall you mentioning the gender disparity in blog participation at our initial meeting. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, “the percentage of women using the internet still lags slightly behind the percentage of men. Women under 30 and black women outpace their male peers. However, older women trail dramatically behind older men” ( The generation gap in technology seems to be going toward greater female participation; a similar trend with increasing college attendance. I’m impressed by your description of the young lady’s technological prowess. Most likely, younger generations use computers and cell phones as an extension of their identity, sharing with others. The same report says, “Women tend to treat information gathering online as a more textured and interactive process – one that includes gathering and exchanging information through support group and personal email exchanges.” It seems natural that blogging would provide similar affordances both for designing your personal space and sharing with others. One wonders what the decline of male participation in academia will cause in our educational system: does it take a strong sports program to attract new enrollment? I think blogging could be a good way for students to develop a portfolio of their compositions. Writing is shared among a close band of bloggers. Both young men and women could build this kind of community online as an extension of their classroom work for further discussion and reflection. It’s great that people like your colleague are willing to learn and implement new technologies in their curriculum. Perhaps, the online world will help equalize the uneven distribution of educated people across our society. Blogging may yet provide new insights into teaching and learning.

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