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Monday, January 27, 2014

Googling Your Way Through Parenthood

by Kyle:

Google is one of my best friends. We've laughed together, we've cried together, and it always has the right answers to my most difficult life's questions. I thought I used Google a lot before becoming a father, but in the past 13 months I am constantly seeking knowledge and advice from my trusty friend.

The good news is that because Google basically owns, and probably designed, the Universe, I am not alone in turning to it with all my questions. I am also not alone in looking to Google for answers when it comes to my one-year-old daughter.

In a recent New York Times article Seth Stephens-Davidowitz did some analysis on parent’s Google queries about their young sons and daughters. Here’s a bit about what he found:
  • Parents are 2.5 times more likely to search “is my son gifted” than “is my daughter gifted.” For every 10 searches about girls being smart, there are 25 about boys. He notes that there is a similar bias when looking across other search terms relating to intelligence. (There are also more searches asking if a son is “stupid” than the same about daughters)
  • Parents search “is my daughter overweight?” almost twice as often as they search “is my son overweight?” For every 10 Google searches about boys being overweight, there are 17 about girls.
  • Parents are twice as likely to search about how to get their daughter to lose weight as they are to do the same about their son.
  • Parents are 1.5 times more likely to ask if their daughter is beautiful rather than if their son is.
  • Parents are 3 times more likely to ask if their daughter is ugly, rather than their son.
Despite these few examples, Stephens-Davidowitz notes that parent’s searches about their children don’t reflect reality, at least on the points we can measure. In the US girls are 11% more likely to be in a gifted program than boys. Boys are also 9% more likely to be overweight than girls.

Stephens-Davidowitz asks, what I also think is an important question:
How would American girls’ lives be different if parents were half as concerned with their bodies and twice as intrigued by their minds?
I want my daughter to grow up to be everything. Beautiful, smart, athletic, motivated, and everything else that is good in this world. I also want that for my (hypothetical) sons. I never want my daughter to feel like she can’t accomplish something simply based on her sex.

What led me to stumble upon this NYT article was thoughts about how to raise a beautiful, smart, athletic, and motivated daughter in a world that tells her beauty is based on your “bikini bridge,” smarts aren’t useful if you have said “bikini bridge”, athletics is only for maintaining your “bikini bridge,” and your only motivation should be to become famous for doing nothing at all.

I am starting to understand that nurturing a daughter in today’s world is going to be tough. I want a lot of things for her, and I hope she will want those things too. I think for my part I can do everything I can to let her know that she is smart and beautiful, and never talk to her in a way that would indicate otherwise.

I hope to never ask Google about whether she is ugly or smart. I have more important questions to ask about dealing with a one-year-old. They look something like this…

Is poop supposed to be that color?

How to enter Cutest Baby In The World Contest

Is Dr. Pepper bad for a baby?

How to teach a baby to play Halo

Are babies better than puppies?

Should I make a Twitter account for my baby? (the answer is NO! The same goes for your dog)

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Kyle works in Democratic politics, yet somehow his bishop still lets him participate in church activities. He hails from Washington DC, but is embarking on a year of living in Salt Lake City and being a stay-at-home dad, while his amazing wife brings home the bacon. Actual bacon. No, seriously, she works across the street from a grocery store. It's delicious. Kyle's Mormon street cred comes from the fact that he is the youngest of seven children and is only five years older than his niece. Twitter: @KJinSLC.
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