Even at MommyTech, Some Old Stereotypes Remain

BlogHer Original Post

Last week, I was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to speak on a panel at MommyTech. While I was there, BabyCenter released the final results of a long-term technology study. The surprising news in the survey: Moms use technology far more than expected. Not such a surprise: Moms  tend to view technology differently than dads -- as a tool, not a toy -- leading MSNBC to report: 

“That means the core markets for men and women are significantly different. Where husbands are more likely to hanker for high-definition TVs with the sharpest, biggest displays or desktop systems with the coolest operating systems, wives gravitate toward camcorders, digital cameras, laptops and multi-room home-monitoring systems, including Webcams.” 

BabyCenter president Tina Sharkey coined the term “chief memory officer” to describe mom’s tech role, and other research shared at the event by (among others) Liz Cutting of the NPD Group and Maria Bailey of BSM Media reinforced the same message.

The technology and products discussed in the MommyTech sessions very much reflected this image of tech mom, focusing mostly on photography, safety and floor cleaning machines. It showcased two different floor cleaning machines, in fact -- one wet, one dry -- and lots of Internet safety options, from monitoring and filtering software to online communities for kids to tXtBlocker, which prevents texting while driving.  

My three favorite products from MommyTech:

  • The Kodak PULSE digital frame, which is a picture frame that has its own e-mail address.  It would be a perfect gift for a relative or friend who doesn’t like to download pictures from e-mail or go to photo sites like Flickr. Just take new pics of the kids, e-mail them to the frame and Grandma has them right away.
  • A new version of the Eye-Fi Wi-Fi SD card with “endless memory.” It automatically deletes pictures on the card that have already been uploaded to your computer. 
  • From LoK8u came GPS locator digital watches, the nu-m8 (new mate) for kids and the multi-m8 for adults (backwoods skiiers and hikers, Alzheimer’s patients, etc.) The kids’ version cannot be removed except with a special tool, and the adult one has a “panic button.” It’s a bit pricey at $180 plus $10 per month for the tracking service, but I’d definitely consider it under certain circumstances. I'd recommend it for kids traveling or attending crowded public events with their parents and for early-stage Alzheimer’s patients. 

While I don’t doubt that the MommyTech view of the tech mom is grounded in reality, I also wonder if we are transferring an old stereotype to the new tech products. Yes, I said stereotype. You know the one. Dads like the biggest, bestest, baddest stuff. Moms, well, we like the appropriate, nurturing stuff. And cleaning products. 

Except for the cleaning products bit, that’s true enough. And I definitely agree that women (generally) may be more directed and practical about their use of technology as a tool. But we like toys, too. In my family, I am usually the first to get the new gadgets, starting with my first Palm Pilot years ago.  I bought the iPod, TIVO, smart phone, digital video camera, netbook, GPS, e-book reader ... the only exception? Ta-da: a digital camera. My husband had one years before I did. Once I did move to digital, though, I was back in a DSLR within a year and now have a bag of gear, multiple lenses, etc. My husband? He uses my old compact digital camera.  

So I wonder: How much of this new vision of the tech mom is just a re-vision of the old? Perhaps the boys don’t want us to play with their toys (or at least not until they are done with them), and we don’t want to rock the boat. So, when asked what we want, we stress the acceptable things -- photos, safety and caring for kids -- and don’t admit to our deeper gadget lust. 

What do you think? 

For more news from the Consumer Electronics Show, read Virginia DeBolt's round-up on BlogHer.

Tell us which gadgets you crave most in the Family Connections group.

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