Google Searches Reveal Parents’ Gender Biases

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Last week, NYTimes published this article Google, Tell Me. Is My Son A Genius? by Seth Stephens-Davidowitz. Have you read this? If not, I suggest you do.

Here’s an excerpt of Stephens-Davidowitz’s article:

“Start with intelligence. It’s hardly surprising that parents of young children are often excited at the thought that their child may be gifted. In fact, of all Google searches starting “Is my 2-year-old,” the most common next word is “gifted.” But this question is not asked equally about young boys and young girls. Parents are two and a half times more likely to ask “Is my son gifted?” than “Is my daughter gifted?” Parents show a similar bias when using other phrases related to intelligence that they may shy away from saying aloud, like, “Is my son a genius?”

Are parents picking up on legitimate differences between young girls and boys? Perhaps young boys are more likely than young girls to use big words or otherwise show objective signs of giftedness? Nope. If anything, it’s the opposite. At young ages, when parents most often search about possible giftedness, girls have consistently been shown to have larger vocabularies and use more complex sentences. In American schools, girls are 11 percent more likely than boys to be in gifted programs. Despite all this, parents looking around the dinner table appear to see more gifted boys than girls.”

Google has revealed striking search patterns from 2004 to present that show parents searches disclose gender bias. Parents are more often to search “is my son gifted”, than “is my daughter gifted”. Parents are more likely to search “is my daughter overweight “, than “is my son overweight”, and more likely to search “is my daughter ugly” than ” is my son ugly”. Google search data also revealed Americans are slightly more likely to search “how to conceive a boy” than “how to conceive a girl”. Adoption searches even show preferences for boys.

Appalling in the year of 2014! And to think of how far gender role differences have evolved in the last ten decades?!?! Yet, Google reveals a difference in parental gender perceptions and attitudes towards their children based on gender. Stephens-Davidowitz asks a poignant question:

“How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?”

I hope as parents that our open overt attitudes towards gender equality can hopefully be supported by parents invert and less open Google searches at home. As a parent to both a daughter and two sons, it makes me reflect, “Am overtly or covertly expressing or reflecting gender bias attitudes that can negatively affect my children?” I’ll be watchful.

What do you think readers? Parents?

Picture above by Ana Albero from NYTimes.com

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