More boys than girls feel confident expressing their views in class and social situations, a survey of eight- to 16-year-olds in the UK has found.
Of 6,000 children surveyed, 69% of boys said they were “very confident” or “confident” speaking in front of classmates, compared with 57% of girls.
The Communication Trust and National Literacy Trust carried out the survey.
The National Literacy Trust’s director said stereotypes of inarticulate male teenagers were “outdated”.
More boys than girls also said they felt confident “saying no to friends” (70% to 62%), “talking to new people” (67% to 62%), “explaining your point of view” (78% to 74%), “asking when you don’t understand something” (75% to 69%) and “talking with teachers (81% to 78%).
The only areas where more girls felt more confident were “talking to people online” (85% to 82%) and “listening to other people’s opinions” (93% to 89%).
‘Kevin the teenager’
Boys in the survey seemed to be more aware of the value of communication skills than girls.
They were more likely to agree with the statements “if I don’t express my views clearly then I don’t get listened to” (66% to 58%) and “if I have difficulty communicating, then people might think that I am not very intelligent” (58% to 51%).
However, more boys than girls (43% to 36%) also said they spent more time online and watching television than speaking to their family.
More than four out of five of those surveyed thought good communication skills were necessary to do well at school, university or college, work and in life generally.
They were also asked what they thought the most important thing in the future was.
Boys and girls generally had similar views, ranking “to be happy” highest, followed by “to earn a lot of money”, then “to be a good decision-maker”, “to have a job I enjoy” and “to be successful in my job”.
However, “to have a partner and children” and “to have good friends” ranked below all these – with “to be famous” scoring above “to have good friends”.
Girls, however, rated “to be happy” more highly than boys (34% to 23%), while boys rated success at work more highly (13% to 8%).
The survey was conducted as part of the Hello campaign, which aims to raise to profile of communication skills for young people across the UK during 2011.
National Literacy Trust director Jonathan Douglas said it was “heartening to see a new voice-conscious generation of boys emerging”.
“While many people believe teenage boys are not the most articulate members of society, like Harry Enfield’s Kevin-the-teenager character, our research shows this is an outdated view.
“The survey paints a completely different picture of young males as confident communicators who are incredibly aware of the important role communication skills play in a successful school, work and social life,” he said.
England’s communication champion Jean Gross said the level of communication skills required to succeed in the workplace was increasing.
“Today’s workplaces require people who can get a point across, listen well to others, and work in teams,” he said.
“Worryingly, 47% of UK employers say they can’t find recruits with these speech and language skills.”
Mr Gross said the survey “exposes the myth” that boys did not want to improve their communication skills.
But it also showed the need to encourage teachers and parents to focus on building girls’ confidence in communicating -“particularly in situations that are more formal than the everyday conversations that are within their comfort zone”, he said.