Using Internet Metasites to Foster Teenage Girls' Interest in Technology

Article excerpt

Around the world, girls do not have equal access to technology either physically or intellectually. School library programs are uniquely positioned to address this issue by promoting Internet sites where girls can use technology. Providing relevant and attractive Web sites for girls has interested education, organizations, and business in recent years. Because thousands of Web sites target teenage female audiences, the focus of this research was metasites or directories of public Web sites that would link to sites on technology for teenage girls. These metasites and other Web sites that support teenage girls' knowledge and involvement in technology are analyzed.

Introduction

In the 21st century, it seems strange that school library media specialists still have to address issues of gender inequity relative to technology. However, current studies and day-to-day observations confirm the sad reality that girls do not have equal access to technology, either physically or intellectually, either in the United States or elsewhere in the world. This issue becomes critical in the adolescent years, although it starts earlier. Hackbarth (2001) found that grade 4 girls in the US (aged 9-10 years) had the same positive attitudes toward computers as boys, but girls were less likely to have access to computers outside school and were less likely to use computers to do projects; so the girls lagged behind the boys in technical vocabulary and ability. In addition, the social pressures on pubescent girls start to affect technology access and use. Boys spend more time on computers, and parents tend to buy boys their own computers more than they purchase them for girls.

Girl Scouts of the USA and the Advertising Council put together a series of advertisements about girls and technology to offset these negative stereotypes and behaviors. In addition, the Girl Scouts Web site (http:// www.girlscouts.org/girlsgotech/index.hrml) provides a forum for girls aged 5 to 17 to engage in technology activities and offers suggestions to adults for ways to encourage girls to learn about technology. Of special interest are the online discussions among girls about their interest in math, science, and technology careers. Their comments are woven throughout this article to provide authentic personal perspectives.

The Situation

Are girls interested in technology? Yes. Do they use it? Yes. In the US, almost half of 9- to 12-year-olds use the Internet; over two thirds of 13- to 17-year-olds do, with no significant difference in the overall amount of use between girls and boys. However, the type of use differs: girls use the Internet more for education and communication than do boys, whereas boys use it more for entertainment (National School Board Foundation, 2003). The report of the American Association of University Women (2000) on girls and technology Tech-savvy: Educating Girls in the New Computer Age reported that girls were not technophobic; rather, they did not like the computer culture. They found programming boring, they did not like the nature of most computer games, and they saw few positive adult female role models. Girls preferred software that was open-ended and creative.

My favorite science and technology career would have to be a Web page designer, because you know that people are looking at your great work all of the time, (age 11)

I'd like to major in computer engineering because of my interest in computers, my reputation as a computer geek, and to show those old-fashioned boys that a girl can do whatever she aspires to do. (age 13)

In 2000, the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the US stated that almost three-quarters of jobs incorporate technology, but that only a quarter of women work in technology-related fields and only 10% are in top technology jobs. Part of the "blame" has to be placed on educational institutions and practices therein. Schools do not always provide equal learning experiences for girls and boys relative to technology. …