It's not too surprising that the comments section of a New York Times opinion piece entitled "Google, Tell Me. Is My Son a Genius?" served as the arena for a recent battle of the sexes.
The article explored the results of an informal study of parents' Google searches, concluding that questions involving intelligence are more likely to be asked in regard to boys ("Is my son gifted?"), while questions relating to appearance are more likely to be asked in regard to girls ("Is my daughter beautiful?").
It's discouraging to note that even in 2014, our culture places a woman's highest importance on her body, and that even in 2014, we are not yet able to resist a good old-fashioned, uh, peepeeing contest when it comes to comparing offspring.
But the article, and its responses, neglects to address a much bigger overarching problem: Why are parents consulting an Internet search engine to substantiate their children's value?
Say Google confirms your hunch that your son is intellectually gifted, but he doesn't make the cut for his elementary school's gifted program. Will you confront his principal? "But the Internet said so."
And what if Google's search results suggest that your daughter isn't as pretty as you think she is? Will you then consult with your little girl? "Sweetheart, I was doubting your societal attractiveness, so I turned to Google for help. We're going to have to do something about your hair."
These examples hyperbolize reactions, not actions. We do this. We type our human thoughts and feelings and concerns into a search bar, and we expect human results. But we're mistaken. Google is a machine that analyzes our words as data, numbers. Children are people, not numbers, so let's not allow Google to analyze them.
Teach your children that what the Internet says is not what goes. Show them that they need to prove their worth to no one but themselves. Instill your sons and your daughters with the confidence to know that they are talented and gorgeous and wonderful and loved, no matter their gender, and no matter what Google says. Besides, do you really want to explain your search history?
Click here for a family internet use contract, and follow these tips to limit your child's screen time, and your own.
Digital Devices and Children
Image: Mother on tablet computer via Shutterstock