You Can Be ‘Saved’ from ‘Inappropriately Gendered’ Communication

A new 'Sheboard' app — we're not making this up — uses 'predictive text' technology to suggest more 'girl-affirming language'

Raising children today simply doesn’t come with enough worries.

Not to fear, though.

Samsung is adding another to the list — the words you type when texting your kids, particularly girls, might be harming them.

Fortunately, a new app can save you from unintentionally inflicting harm on your young ones by using inappropriately gendered language — such as when telling them that dinner’s ready or that they better finish their homework by 8 p.m. or else.

Sheboard is an Android app (an iOS version is coming soon) developed by a Finnish humanitarian organization called Plan International and supported by Samsung, as the Evening Standard reported. The mobile keyboard app uses predictive language to offer alternatives to common words and phrases its developers have identified as often being used in a stereotypical or damaging way when talking about girls.

Most people who have used a smartphone are familiar with predictive text input technology. It enables you to use fewer keystrokes to type out a word by prompting you with the word it believes you want to use — after you’ve tapped in only the first letter or two.

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It makes texting and typing quicker, but it’s also led to some pretty hilarious misunderstandings. Between predictive texting and autocorrect, there are entire websites, articles, and Pinterest boards devoted to associated mishaps and the comedic interactions that ensue.

Related: Look What Little Kids in Seattle Are Taught About Gender

What isn’t quite as funny with Sheboard’s predictive text mobile keyboard app is that not everyone is keen on the need for it.

Some online comments about it, in fact, suggest the app itself represents an act of sexism.

On the YouTube video for the app, for example, one commenter said, “I can’t believe this is possible in 2018! This is the most sexist app I’ve ever seen. Shame, shame for creator. Boys have same feelings as girls.”

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Another bluntly noted, “Imagine [if] this would be an app for boys. All hell would break loose.”

Twitter wasn’t much kinder than YouTube in its reception.

By using the keyboard, people are instantly alerted if they stray into dangerous lingual territory — which could be seen as stereotypical. Lest you wander unaware into damaging verbiage, merrily texting messages like “hi, princess” or “she’s daddy’s little girl,” or “you’re so cute” — well, then, the Sheboard will equip you with more “empowering” alternatives.

For example, if you type “my little prin,” you may be presented with “adventurer” before “princess,” Business Insider reported. “The keyboard uses predictive text technology to suggest words associated with positive ideas like intellect, strength, and bravery,” the outlet added.

Related: Steer Clear of ‘Gendered Language,’ Even ‘Husband’ and ‘Wife’ on Campus

It’s possible that such use of a keyboard could spur important conversations about how we can better empower girls, and of course, that’s great.

Given the online response to the app, however — it may be quite a tall order to even get anyone to install it.

Michele Blood is a Flemington, New Jersey-based freelance writer and a regular contributor to LifeZette.

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