New study finds gender divide in children's use of cell phone features (w/ Video)

Dec 17, 2009

It's a given that many children will ask their parents for cell phones this Christmas. Now, a recent study by University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) sociologist Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., finds that the way the kids will use their new phones depends on their gender.

In a study of nearly 1,000 middle-school students, students were asked to rate the different ways they use their on a five-point scale, from zero meaning "Never" to 5 meaning "Several Times a Day." The study found that boys scored higher than for using their cell phones to play games, share pictures and videos, listen to and/or send e-mails, even after accounting for how much the students liked using their phones and how skilled they were at using them, says Cotten, whose study appears in the current issue of the journal New Media & Society.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
UAB Associate Professor Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., discusses new study. Credit: University of Alabama at Birmingham

"It has a lot to do with gender socialization," says Cotten. "Boys are often taught to explore and be more creative with technology and not to be afraid to take things apart. So it leads to more advanced cell phone uses among boys. Boys tend to see and use the cell phone as a gadget."

Girls, on the other hand, used the phone as a phone book or contact list more often than boys did, says Cotten, who teaches in the UAB Department of Sociology and Social Work. But when UAB researchers looked at more traditional types of cell-phone use — how frequently children made calls and used text messaging — no gender differences were detected, with girls averaging 2 hours on the cell phone each day and averaging about 1.8 hours per day.

"By these study results, we aren't saying that parents should buy phones with fewer features for girls," says Cotten, "but it does point out how more needs to be done to teach girls about the technical and more advanced multimedia features of their cell phones. Females traditionally have perceived themselves as less skilled in terms of technology, especially with regard to computers.

"If you plan to get your child a cell phone, features and style are still going to be a personal choice," says Cotten. "The bigger issues that parents should think about are the age of the child and how mature they are. Is the child responsible enough to stay within time-use allotments, to charge the phone, not to lose it and to use the phone appropriately? Obviously more advanced features like Internet access and multimedia capabilities carry greater opportunity and consequences for misuse.

"Talk with the child about what the responsibilities are for owning a cell phone, the limits for making calls, and texting and behaviors that are appropriate and inappropriate," she said. "Parents need to have a good conversation with their child about the cell phone because it's much harder to control children's cell-phone activities unless they set rules or place parental controls on the phones."

Explore further: Digital native fallacy: Teachers still know better when it comes to using technology

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Cell phones dangerous for child pedestrians, study finds

Jan 26, 2009

Children who talk on cell phones while crossing streets are at a higher risk for injuries or death in a pedestrian accident, said psychologists at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in a new study that will appear ...

Cell Phone Calls Via Fixed-line Networks, Via Bluetooth

Mar 18, 2005

In the future, cell phone users will be able to use Bluetooth to telephone at home via fixed-line networks. At CeBIT, Siemens was demonstrating the solution on a cell phone to show how access to an ISDN fixed-line ...

Recommended for you

Gypsies and travellers on the English Green Belt

Oct 17, 2014

The battle between Gypsies, Travellers and the settled community over how land can be used has moved to the Green Belt, observes Peter Kabachnik of the City University of New York.

Cadavers beat computers for learning anatomy

Oct 16, 2014

Despite the growing popularity of using computer simulation to help teach college anatomy, students learn much better through the traditional use of human cadavers, according to new research that has implications ...

User comments : 0