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.