I approached this month's software titles with apprehension and decidedly mixed feelings. My initial reaction to "software for girls" was one of disdain. Why create gender-specific software? Doesn't its generation imply that the myriad of excellent educational programs already in existence is not "for girls" -- the underlying message being that girls can't truely enjoy the currently popular math, science, reading, and problem-solving titles? Or, more pointedly, that those titles will prove to be too difficult for girls, that we need to paint computer software pink to make it girl-friendly?
Maybe, but then again, we all know that no software is educational if it isn't used, and those programs that are used repeatedly will have the most influence on the child, both in imparting knowledge, and in increasing computer ease and expertise.
There are a number of new software titles on the market that specifically focus on the female audience. Among them are programs featuring perennial (albeit potentially controversial) favorites such as Barbie, Madeline, and (coming soon) Nancy Drew. There are even companies created solely to design and market software for girls, among them Girl Games, Girl Tech, and Her Interactive. These companies believe that girls are interested in computers, but neglected in the current market.
The market does exist, and is clamoring for attention. Girls, mothers, and teachers approached to review this month's titles in SuperKids were unanimously enthusiastic. They want computer software that speaks to them. Turned off by the violent, warfare-type games that overwhelm the store shelves, girls are looking for software that reflects their interests and ambitions.
Although not necessarily educational in an academic sense, each of the titles we looked at provides the child with another opportunity to address the computer as a friend, and enjoy discovering what it has to offer.
When our reviewers eyes light up at the sight of familiar logos and feminine packaging, I find it impossible to deny their validity. No matter what we might want to believe, the world of computers is still a man's world, and our girls will need all the help they can get to enter and succeed in it.
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