Taiwanese Adolescents' Perceptions and Attitudes regarding the Internet: Exploring Gender Differences

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Undoubtedly, adolescents have become one of the major groups using the Internet. Most adolescents not only have considerable experience using it, but also have their own personal Internet-related equipment for participating in many activities it affords. Adolescents have many opportunities to join the world of the Internet, regardless of their goals of usage, such as researching information, communicating, or playing on-line games. For adolescents, using the Internet may be part of the routine of daily life or for future work. Since most adolescents have considerable experience in using the Internet, it would be interesting to explore their perceptions and attitudes toward it, especially with regard to gender differences.

Over the past decade, researchers have investigated people's perceptions or attitudes regarding computers and the Internet (e.g., Colley, 2003; Kadijevich, 2000; Schumacher & Morahan-Martin, 2001; Tsai, 2004), particularly gender differences. These studies, in general, revealed that male students have more favorable attitudes; for example, males were found to have lower anxiety and higher control when using the Internet (e.g., Tsai et al., 2001). Further, in studying adolescents' attitudes toward computers, Colley (2003) examined gender differences in perceptions of school computing by asking their preferences in using computers at school. Her research revealed that girls perceived computers as tools for accomplishing tasks, while boys approached them as technology for play and mastery. She further suggested that these gender differences were important for understanding how computers are approached and utilized in educational settings by adolescents (Colley, 2003). Moreover, Liaw and Huang (2003) proposed that the perceptions of a new technology (such as the Internet) and how it has been accepted, shaped the factors that affected individual desires to use related products in the new technology. Therefore, exploring adolescents' perceptions regarding the Internet may be crucial to determining the intentions of its usage. The exploration of gender differences may also provide more insights into the stereotype that computing or Internet use is a masculine-dominated technology.

Tsai (2004), in interviewing forty adolescents, developed four categories to describe adolescents' perceptions of the Internet, including the Internet as technology, tool, toy, and tour. He found that many adolescents perceived the Internet as a tool, some simply as a technology, and some as a toy. However, gender differences were not addressed in the research. Therefore, based upon the research of Tsai (2004), the present study explores adolescents' perceptions of the Internet by both genders.

Furthermore, many researchers have noted that attitude toward a new technology plays an important role in its acceptance and usage (Liaw, 2002; Tsai & lin, 2001). Although educators have developed some scales to measure adolescents' computer attitudes, few such scales were constructed specifically for exploring adolescents' attitudes toward the Internet; the one developed by Tsai, Lin, and Tsai (2001) may be one of the few. They have developed an Internet Attitude Scale for high school students with the following four subscales: perceived usefulness, affection, control, and behavior toward the Internet. The research findings in the study, similar to most former research about computers, revealed that male adolescents had more positive attitudes toward the Internet than did female adolescents on all subscales.

However, Tsai (2002) explored 155 adolescents' attitudes toward computers, and found that they were not related to gender. Although computers have often been considered a masculine domain, it is true that females are utilizing computers (or the Internet) at a highly increasing rate. Rainer, Laosethakul, and Astone (2003) pointed out that the gender gap in computer usage and attitudes after 1995 has been gradually lessening. …