Gender differences in internet use patterns and underlying motivations for internet use

Year: 2012

Author: Chye, Stefanie, Yeo, Evania, Chong, Wan Har, Huan, Vivien, Ang, Rebecca

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


Gender differences in the use of computers have been well documented in the last two decades (Li & Kirkup, 2007).  Although the Internet has frequently been characterized as male-dominated, the recent years have witnessed a rise in the number of female users (Weiser, 2000).  The closing of the gender gap makes it opportune for researchers to examine gender differences in the use of the Internet (Teo & Lim, 2000).  Understanding of the Internet is incomplete unless we understand the role and influence of gender in the processes of Internet adoption and usage (Dholakia, Dholakia, & Kshetri, 2003).  Various levels of gender disparity exist in the adoption of the Internet with a significant gender bias toward men. The gender bias in Internet use is important because ability to use these technologies has become increasingly critical to educational and economic success.  With a study focusing on gender, sources of gender disparity in Internet usage can be identified and the gender related digital divide could be bridged (Ono & Zavodny, 2002).

The aim of this study was thus to explore gender differences in Internet use patterns and underlying motivations for Internet use among adolescents in Singapore.  Much of the existent research on the Internet has been predicated upon data collected in Europe and America. To date, there is comparatively little studies on the Internet in the Asian context.  Singapore is an ideal country in Asia to examine the Internet phenomenon as a recent survey has revealed that Singapore youths are the most wired lot in Asia (Synovate, 2010).  With the extensive network connectivity, affordable accessibility and early exposure to the Internet in Singapore, it is important to understand how adolescents in Singapore are spending their time on the Internet and ensure that they access the Internet for the right motivations. 

A mixed method approach was employed.  A quantitative questionnaire was undertaken mainly to understand participants' Internet use patterns.  Qualitative focus group discussions were conducted to understand their underlying motivations for using the different Internet activities.  142 Secondary Two students from a local Secondary School participated in the study.  Results showed no significant differences between genders in time spent on the Internet.  Significant differences were found in the types of Internet activities engaged in.  Further exploration of males' and females' reasons for engaging in the different Internet activities reveals that their underlying motivations are largely the same.  Results are discussed and implications considered.