A Thematic Analysis of Gender Stereotypes in Children's Top Mobile Applications of 2018
Keene, Kyra Margaret
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People around the globe rely on their mobile devices for instant access to entertainment and social media. Children comprise a large majority of individuals who use smartphone applications, particularly for gaming and learning opportunities. Understandably, these apps become part of the identity development process, including the formation of one's gender identity. App developers include gendered content to capture and maintain children's attention, but much of the existing research examines children in late childhood and early adolescence, leaving the ages of six to eight relatively undiscussed. The researcher utilized a thematic analysis to review 20 children's mobile applications for instances of gender stereotypes. Social cognitive theory offers a guiding principle for understanding the process of developing one's gender identity, as well as the role that external stimuli, such as digital media examples and parent models, play. This study aimed to determine whether mobile applications targeting the identified age group use gender stereotypes, as well as how they employ these stereotypes within the application. The researcher randomly selected 20 top children's applications on the Apple App Store and examined them for gendered instances, such as occupations and interests as well as character depictions. The results reflect that instances of gender stereotypes do occur in the children's mobile applications. Many of the applications portrayed feminine stereotypes surrounding nurturing and caregiving tasks ("Mommy in Training"), making it one of the most frequently exploited feminine stereotypes in the sample. The "Boys will be Boys" stereotype comprised the most frequently displayed masculine stereotypes across the studied applications. These findings represent the idea that society places higher value on these stereotypes than others, such as social relationships ("The Power of Motivational Friendship") or recklessness ("The Risk Taker"). Implications include modeling of traditionally masculine and feminine stereotypes for young users by utilizing popular characters recognizable by most children in the target age range.
General Audience Abstract
Handheld electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, encompass some of the most widely used electronic devices in today's society. Most families in America have at least one mobile device with internet capability. Apple, the manufacturer of perhaps the most popular brand of electronic devices, pre-install their App Store on all devices they sell, giving users instant access to hundreds of thousands of different mobile applications that offer functions to make every aspect of life simpler. Young children spend a significant amount of their time playing games on these devices, although the American Academy of Pediatrics (2017) recommends that parents limit their children's daily screen time to no more than 2 hours, depending on the age of the child. The games that children download and play impose a number of different messages and stereotypes on their users, including gender stereotypes. Due to the substantial time children dedicate to these apps, the messages communicated regarding gender play crucial roles in the development of their gender identity. Social cognitive theory offers valuable insight and guidance into the gender identity development process. Therefore, the present study examines the gender stereotypes conveyed within 20 of the top children's mobile applications available on the Apple App Store in April 2018. The researcher randomly selected 20 children's applications, 10 each from the Top Free and Top Paid categories and examined them for gendered instances, such as occupations and interests as well as character depictions. The results reflect that instances of gender stereotypes do occur in the children's mobile applications. These represent the idea that society places higher value on certain stereotypes, like being caring and nurturing ("Mommy in Training") or engaging in messy, adventurous play ("Boys will be Boys"), than others, such as social relationships ("The Power of Motivational Friendship") or recklessness ("The Risk Taker"). Implications include modeling of traditionally masculine and feminine stereotypes for young users by utilizing popular characters recognizable by most children in the target age range.
- Masters Theses