Parents’ preference for sons is a well-known phenomenon. This study examines whether the use of social media by parents is gender biased. Due to the large-scale use of social media, even a moderate bias might significantly contribute to gender inequality. We use data from a Russian social networking site on posts made by 635,665 users and find that parents mention sons more often than daughters and that posts featuring sons get more “likes.” This gender imbalance may send a message that girls are less important than boys or that they deserve less attention. Particularly in a country with an above-average ranking on gender parity, this invisible bias might present an intractable obstacle to gender equality.Abstract
Gender inequality starts early in life. Parents tend to prefer boys over girls, which is manifested in reproductive behavior, marital life, and parents’ pastimes and investments in their children. While social media and sharing information about children (so-called “sharenting”) have become an integral part of parenthood, whether and how gender preference shapes the online behavior of users are not well known. In this paper we use public posts made by 635,665 users from Saint Petersburg on a popular Russian social networking site, to investigate public mentions of daughters and sons on social media. We find that both men and women mention sons more often than daughters in their posts. We also find that posts featuring sons receive more “likes” on average. Our results indicate that girls are underrepresented in parents’ digital narratives about their children, in a country with an above-average ranking on gender parity. This gender imbalance may send a message that girls are less important than boys or that they deserve less attention, thus reinforcing gender inequality from an early age.