To read some of the recent media reports, you'd think girls were in danger of falling behind in the Computer Age. Part of this image may stem from the fact that software makers are churning out so many of the high-action games that tend to be targeted toward boys. But look beyond the surface and you'll see that girls are generally as interested and engaged in computing as boys, even if they have different tastes.|
We know this from experience with our daughters (Ralph's daughter is 12; Mark's is 3), and from our workshops across the country, where we've talked to parents who have "computer-hip" daughters.
Below are five tips to help you get off on the right foot with your daughter:
In the end, the ultimate goal is to create a natural interest in computing, not to raise an engineer. Your daughter should have plenty of healthy interests outside of computing, such as sports or hobbies. She can use the computer as a powerful tool to explore her passions. Whether she's four or 14, she'll be developing skills that'll serve her for a lifetime.
- Parental involvement: Get involved. Learn your way around a computer. Take a class, read and get up to speed on computing so you can provide personal encouragement. Take joint classes with your daughter; make it a family experience.
- Get mom computing: When a daughter sees that her mom is not intimidated by the computer, and has a real interest in technology, she's more likely to follow her lead. Figure out a way for your daughter to "help" you, bring her into the process.
- Find programs SHE likes: Start with programs that pique her interest. Don't assume she likes the same high-action programs as the boys-but don't assume that she doesn't. Each child is unique, but girls are often more interested in programs that stress creativity and offer story lines, mysteries to solve and social interaction. Consider gender-neutral programs like Kid Pix, The Oregon Trail II and Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
- Get her online: many girls like to do research for homework and find penpals on the Internet. Make using a computer a social experience rather than a dry computing exercise.
- Manage time on the PC: if she has siblings, particularly brothers, be sure she gets equal time. Better yet, design exercises where they can earn credits or privileges for working together on programs or solving mysteries, for instance. With my (Mark's) 3-year-old daughter, I set a kitchen timer to assure she gets equal time-and her two older brothers can earn credits (for future software purchases) simply by abiding by the rules and helping her out.
Mark Ivey and Ralph Bond, the PC Dads, are technology literacy managers at
Intel Corp, who speak out about computers and the Internet to help families get
all they can from their home PCs. Copies of their articles can be found at the
PC Dads forum on America Online, keyword: PCDADS, or their web site: http://www.intel.com.