Adolescent Internet Usage in Taiwan: Exploring Gender Differences

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The purpose of this study was to investigate gender differences in adolescent Internet accessibility, motives for use, and online activities in Taiwan; 629 5th and 6th graders were surveyed. Some studies have indicated that while males tend to emphasize the value of using the Internet, females tend to express more negative attitudes toward computers and the Internet. (e.g., Durndell & Haag, 2002; Kadijevich, 2000; Whitely, 1997). Because of such findings, computers and the Internet may be considered a masculine activity. Two factors may help explain this phenomenon. One, is the ability to master computers and the Internet; it is undeniable that males have more opportunities to use technological products such as the Internet. The result is that males have used the Internet more often and for a longer time than females have (Clemente, 1998; Kraut et al., 1998; Bruce, 1988). The other factor could be due to the contents of the Internet, much of which was not targeted at females when the Internet first gained prominence. Clemente pointed out that, at least in the mid 1990’s, the Internet simply did not have what most females wanted or needed. Since its content did not satisfy the needs of women, they tended to view the Internet as less important and used it less often than did males.

Recently, some researchers (Schumacher & Morahan-Martin, 2001) have argued that the gap has narrowed now that females have acquired more experience with the Internet, and more of the content that is related to women’s interests has become available. Hunley et al. (2005) reported that the amount of time spent on the computer was similar across genders.

Some findings support the idea that searching for information and playing games are the most common online activities for adolescents. For example, Hunley et al. (2005) pointed out that girls most often used the computer for homework. Surveying 6 to 11 year-old children, eMarketer (2005) found that game playing (42.6%) and searching for homework information (23.1%) were the most popular online activities for adolescents. However one report indicated that boys (28.9%) were more likely to play games than were girls (11.1%). Tsai and Lin (2004) found that while males tend to consider the Internet more as a “toy“, females tend to view it as a tool or as technology with which to accomplish a task. These findings may indicate that females tend to hold a more pragmatic view of the internet, while males tend to focus more on enjoyment.

A greater focus on socializing may be another cause for gender differences. Conducting a survey of Internet users over 15 years of age in the United States, Hoffman, Kalsbeek and Novak (1996) found that females were more likely to use the Internet for e-mailing, while males were more likely to download software. It is possible that female adolescents tend to use e-mail to fulfill their need for social contact with friends. As to why males more often download software, online games may be behind this behavior. Some games, especially those on children’s websites, require the player to download software. Since male adolescents tend to spend more time playing online games, this may lead to their spending more time downloading materials. In one final point of difference, girls more frequently “surf” for information about idols (Valkenburg & Soeters, 2001).

It is interesting to note that gender differences appeared in the categories of weekly online time and the Internet access locations. Most subjects’ weekly online time fell either into the category of less than an hour (boys: 39.5%; girls: 47.5%) or 1 to 5 hours (boys: 41.2%; girls: 38.7%). 10.7% of the boys reported spending over 10 hours surfing the Internet weekly compared with only 5.0% of the girls; this percentage indicates that boys tend to spend more time than girls on the Internet. Furthermore, while girls tend to go online mostly at home...
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