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Girls and Technology

Helen Boehm

Whether in the crib or the classroom, a child’s exploration, discovery and interaction with the world demonstrates the unique developmental process of play. Play is the “job description” of childhood, helping to building the fundamentals for a lifetime of learning. So, in the same way an adult’s work may be frustrating without the right tools, children’s play may be less challenging (and not as much fun) without the right, age-appropriate playthings. Kids need and deserve toys that will teach, stimulate, entertain and inspire them.

In our evolving digital world, girls and boys must become comfortable and adept with modern technology. Achieving a level of ease and proficiency with technology will be necessary for success in school, work and life. Tech toys can gently encourage children and help them feel capable and secure with technology. Although there has been a historical perception that girls fall short of their male classmates in technology aptitude, as well as related math and science skills, numerous studies now confirm that gender differences are simply a function of performance and interest, and not of innate ability. Still, boys are more involved in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) areas in school and men fill almost 80% of STEM jobs.

According to Janice Weinman of the American Association of University Women, from the beginning, “girls tend to be less comfortable than boys with computers…and they tend to use them more for word processing than problem solving or discovering new ways in which to understand information.”

Shining a light on girls’ interests in science and technology is crucial to encourage the development of STEM skills at a young age. Parents of young girls can be a valuable resource by addressing this issue and promoting Generation STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math to their daughters. A recent study by the Girl Scouts Research Institute concluded that girls are extremely interested in STEM subjects but lack the necessary motivation and encouragement to sustain that interest as they grow. Parental backing and support is necessary for girls to discover and focus on STEM areas as well as have positive experiences using technology.

Family support should begin early in life and continue through non-gender specific play activities that nurture cause and effect relationships and fuel an enthusiasm for learning. When children are exposed to core STEM concepts at an early age, they are better prepared and more confident in studying STEM subjects in school and pursuing a career in a STEM-related field. Parents can inspire self-confidence by providing an enriched play environment for their daughters. This play setting should promote self-reliance about the use of technology, encourage participation at all levels and reinforce the excitement of learning.

To help foster a love of STEM learning at an early age, VTech has created a special “Girl Center” on its website to serve as a resource for families with girls. They can easily browse the collection of tech toys hand-picked just for girls to introduce them to technology from a young age. From the Peek-At- Me Bunny for the littlest learners to the ABC Text & Go Motion for bigger kids, VTech has girls covered at all stages of learning.

Since youngsters are aspirational and want to be “older” and “just like mom and dad,” they are also curious about technology and want to play with their parents’ tablets and smartphones. Play with smartphones and adult tablets may inadvertently expose children to inappropriate Internet content and can lead to frustration for youngsters with limited dexterity and undeveloped motor skills. In addition, small children can easily break or damage their parents’ smartphones and tablets.

Luckily, there are child-sized, age appropriate learning toys that have the look and feel of products that children aspire to own so they can emulate their parents. The InnoTab 3S Learning App Tablet allows children as young as three years old to safely and independently operate a tablet and, through VTech’s Learning Lodge, parents can manage hundreds of e-books, games and learning apps for their little ones. Additionally, parents can also monitor their children’s progress and determine areas of strength and areas that require additional attention. Most importantly, the InnoTab 3S Learning App Tablet looks just like an adult tablet and can be loaded with STEM-related learning apps and games to keep children safely engaged in the play and learning process.

Educators and psychologists often study the patterns of interaction that good learning toys provide. However, parents have long known what these professionals and their studies seem to confirm: learning and the development of confidence and self-worth occur spontaneously and naturally during play.

Meet VTech's Expert Panel
Deborah Sharp Libby
Early Childhood Language and Reading Expert
Eric Klopfer
Platform Learning Expert
Lise Eliot
Early Childhood Mental Development Expert
Helen Boehm
Psychologist, Author, and Parenting Resource Expert
Carla C. Johnson
Science and STEM Expert
Francis (Skip) Fennell
Mathematics Expert