Highlights’ State of the Kid Report: Thoughts on Bullying, Happiness, and Gender

Earlier this week, I came across a fascinating survey done by Highlights Magazine. Nearly 1,000 kids sent in surveys from the magazine for Highlights to compile the 2011 State of the Kid report. The report shows responses from kids in two different age groups, 2 to 8 and 9 to 12+, as they answer questions about bullying (“What does it mean to bully someone?” “If you have been bullied, how did you deal with it?”), parental happiness (“What do you think your parents worry about most?”), and gender. Results from this last line of questions are what fascinate me the most.

The question: Are there things that boys are better at than girls?

Image: Highlights State of the Kid 2011 Report. Used with permission.

In 2011, the messaging about sports being for boys is still strong enough that a whopping 64.1% of kids say that boys are better than girls at sports and athletics. What else are boys better at? Games/video games (3.9%), being smart (2.6%), fighting/being mean (3.2%), and, my favorite, using the bathroom (0.7%).

The flipside: Are there things that girls are better at than boys?

Image: Highlights State of the Kid 2011 Report. Used with permission.

Wow, this is a mixed bag. There are encouraging bits, like 8.2% said that girls are smarter and 9.3% who said that girls are better at sports. 10.2% said that girls are better at gymnastics and cheerleading, though I’m unclear as to why those are separated from sports/athletics. Then there’s the stuff girls are better at that looks like it was pulled from a Pan Am script: hair, makeup, and fashion (12.9%), being nice and courteous (6.2%), cooking and cleaning (5.1%), and being pretty (1.8%). 2.3% said that girls are better at everything.

I applaud Highlights for giving kids this megaphone through which to share their thoughts. Parents should stand up and take notice of their responses. We need to let our boys and girls know that there’s a vast world of things that they can excel in, and be vigilant in breaking through gender stereotypes in our homes, schools, and communities.

Download the full report and watch the webcast on the Highlights website.

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