Many parents struggle with their children’s use of technology. That struggle may differ depending on the sex of the child. Managing your child’s relationship with technology can pose unique challenges, because research shows that girls’ and boys’ brains have very different reactions to their use of devices. In general, the “overuse” of technology is no more prevalent for boys or girls, but the kind of technology they’re using is what differs.
For boys, video games are the most enticing form of digital entertainment. According to a Pew Research poll, 92% of teenage boys reported they had access to a gaming console and 97% reported that they play video games.
Apparently, gaming is much more exciting to boys’ brains than to girls’. Research that utilized MRI’s to monitor boys’ neurological reactions to gaming showed that the male brain reacts much more than the female brain, specifically the part of the brain that’s prone to addiction. This may be a biological explanation as to why boys have a harder time controlling their gaming behaviors and why parents are often left frustrated.
For girls, the technology of choice is social media. Social media provides connection and a sense of relationship that resonates more specifically with girls’ brains. Girls are much more regular users of social media and utilize it as a way to express themselves far more than boys. Girls are more likely to post about accomplishments, personal problems, family, political or religious beliefs than boys, according to Pew Research. A study published in Psychological Science has confirmed that the same part of the brain that is affected by eating chocolate and winning money is impacted by likes on social media.
Gloria DeGaetano, Founder/Director of the Parenting Coaching Institute confirmed this to Parentology earlier this year. She explained that the struggle many parents face with managing their child’s technology use is based on brain science, “because of the vulnerability of the brain stem and lower brain that’s being impacted by the screens in a way a mature mind won’t be.” DeGaetano also confirmed that she sees both boys and girls struggling with the use of technology but for boys it’s usually a gaming issue while girls prefer social media.
Helping your child manage their use of technology can be challenging, but understanding the science behind it may help. While social norms certainly influence the media kids choose, research shows that boys’ and girls’ brains are literally wired differently when it comes to preference.