Across the years we’ve been running our telepresence technology service, we’ve found some significant differences between the way boys and girls engage with the technology and even the rate at which boys or girls are referred to, and take up the service.
Over the course of our service 43.8% of all referrals were for males, compared to 30% for females and 0.4% for non-binary. However, when we look at the actual uptake, the gap widens: 58.4% of those who have adopted our technology are male, while 40.6% are female and just 1% are non-binary.
It’s worth noting that there is a significant percentage (25.8%) of students for whom gender information is unknown at the referral stage. This might affect our understanding of the full picture, so further analysis is required to draw definitive conclusions.
With a data set of close to 500 students, it’s fair to say that boys are more likely than girls to be referred to our telepresence technology service and are also more likely to adopt it once referred.
“My daughter is 14 years old and she doesn’t want to draw attention to herself. She doesn’t want others to know that she has a disability or be any different from her peers.”
Our data, and research, offer insights into why girls with illness might be reluctant to use tech like robots to go to school. Here we’ll cover a handful of reasons, noting that some may be applicable to boys, non-binary and gender diverse students. Our purpose is to highlight the data that we know appears more often or seems more significant for girls.
Girls with serious illnesses might already feel isolated, and using tech to join school could make them feel more cut off. They may experience negative social consequences from absence, impacting friendships, interactions with peers, and engagement in activities outside of classes.
Some girls might fear being seen as “different” or less able if they use a robot or telepresence for school because of an illness or disability. Worry aboutstigma and revealing their condition might discourage them from using this tech for school and social activities.
Using telepresence technology, like robots, might bring unwanted attention, making girls feel self-conscious, and can increase anxiety about how they look. Problems like slow internet, trouble controlling the robot, or not having the right resources can put girls off using telepresence for school connection.
While our telepresence technology service is freely offered to students of all genders, and we observe marked differences in the rates of referral and adoption between girls and boys, we can foster a more supportive approach. Here are five tips:
- Provide Personalised Support: Understand the unique issues for girls with serious health conditions, including physical changes. Give the student a choice of tech options – robot, Teams, Zoom – so they can choose how they join their classes, and implement an individual education plan (IEP/ILP) tailored to their specific needs and interests.
- Foster a Supportive and Inclusive Environment: With the student’s permission, share age-appropriate information about her illness journey with friends and classmates. Encourage peer interaction for a sense of fun and normalcy. Openly address biases or stereotypes about girls not using technology, and destigmatise health challenges.
- Elevate STEM: Connect STEM concepts to real-life experiences, such as everyday use of technology. Talk with the student about the positive opportunities presented by educational technology, and the differences between it and mass social media. Finally, explore interest in virtual STEM experiences and activities to engage her in the process.
- Cultivate Mentors, Role Models, and Support Systems: Establish support networks within the school and the broader community to inspire and guide the student in her use of technology and pursuit of STEM subjects for applications in her area/s of interest.
- Collaborate With Support People and Organisations: Partnership between schools, families, healthcare professionals and others involved with supporting a student is essential to implement these strategies and create an empowering environment for girls with complex health conditions to embrace technology while challenging stereotypes.
At MissingSchool, we recognise the significance of providing the right technology and support to facilitate a seamless educational experience for all students, irrespective of their health conditions, gender or other characteristics. Our Helpline service is on standby to collaborate with families and schools to provide the right technology and support, backed up with resources, planning tools and regular check-ins.
If you know a student with a complex health condition who is missing school, or a sibling who is absent, please contact us on the Helpline below.
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