Teen Girls and Technology: What’s the Problem, What’s the Solution?

Print More

Lesley Farmer
Teachers College Press/ALA Editions
192 pages. $52, $21.95 paperback.

“Digital native” teenage girls understand technology, don’t they? Not enough to handle the high-tech demands of the job market, contends Lesley Farmer, a professor of librarianship at California State University Long Beach. Recent research shows that girls in elementary school are as interested in technology as boys. But when puberty strikes, girls become sensitive to social messages about gender, avoiding what they see as the male domain of technology, along with math and science career tracks. Disliking competitive computer games that boys favor, girls enjoy social networking, word processing, and Internet searching, preferring small gadgets such as cell phones and MP3 players. Through college and beyond, females use technology to make connections with people, while males use it to demonstrate competence. Males write most software.

Unless teachers address gender inequities in instruction, Farmer predicts, society won’t have “the benefit of a feminine perspective on technology,” which will “continue to be user-unfriendly and non-intuitive.” Also crucial is “a community-based approach to empowering girls through technology.” Often overlooked, school and public libraries already connect teenagers with technology resources and programs for study, creativity and leisure; many observe Teen Tech Week each March. Nonprofits have made a start, with initiatives such as training Girl Scouts in broadcasting skills and offering programs that feature chat and other technologies for at-risk teenagers through the National Youth Development Information Center.

Educators and youth workers can get up to speed with this book’s wealth of project ideas for schools, communities and families, emphasizing girls as creators of technology tools for self-fulfillment and social change. Tailored to girls’ interests, activities include using Skype and webcams for cybermeetings, wikis for interactive polls, online peer mentoring, production spaces in youth-serving institutions for using Flickr, YouTube and other tools, and much more. (800) 575-6566, http://www.tcpress.com.