Adolescent Internet Usage in Taiwan: Exploring Gender Differences

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

The preteens and teens of today are the first widely "wired" generation. According to a report released by eMarketer (2004), the number of preteens and teens online in the United States grew steadily from 26.6 million in 2000 to 34.3 million in 2003, when nearly one-half of all youngsters were online. The report further points out that preteens and teens comprise over 20% of the American online population. A recent survey (Forrester Research, 2005) revealed that consumers between the ages of 12 and 17 in North America were often online daily and averaged almost 11 hours per week. The trend is similar in Taiwan. According to a survey by Taiwan Network Information Center (2008), the Internet population in Taiwan has reached 15 million. Among them, Internet users under the age of 20 accounted for about 2.86 million. Moreover, the two groups with the highest rates of Internet usage were 12- to 15-year-olds (98%) and 16- to 20-year-olds (95.6%). It appears that the Internet has become not only part of adolescents' daily life but one of the most important media.

The popularity of the Internet among adolescents raises many challenges to the academic community as well as to market researchers. Due to their greater buying power, most research has focused on the Internet behavior of adults while research on adolescents has been relatively neglected. Monitoring adolescent Internet behavior is important, in part, because they may encounter undesirable content, such as pornography or online harassment. Additionally, many online games contain a large amount of violence. Though the advantages provided by the Internet are indispensable for modern life, its possible negative influences cannot be dismissed. More knowledge about adolescents' behaviors may provide parents and teachers with the information necessary to guide them in their Internet use and help them avoid the dangers.

The purpose of this study was to explore gender differences in adolescent Internet accessibility, motives for use, and online activities in Taiwan.

THEORETICAL BACKGROUND AND HYPOTHESES

Accessibility to the Internet

Some studies have indicated that while males tend to highlight the value of using the Internet as well as their proficiency, females tend to express more negative attitudes toward computers and the Internet (e.g., Durndell & Haag, 2002; Kadijevich, 2000; Whitley, 1997). In part because of such findings, computers and the Internet may be considered a masculine domain. Two factors may help explain this phenomenon. One is the ability to master computers and the Internet; it is undeniable that males had more opportunities to use technology products such as the Internet. The result was that males have used the Internet more often and for a longer time than have females (Clemente, 1998; Kraut et al., 1998; Bruce, 1988). The other factor could be embedded in the contents of the Internet, much of which was not targeted at females when the Internet first gained prominence. Clemente (1998) pointed out that, at least in the mid-1990s, the Internet simply did not have what most females wanted or needed. Giacquinta, Bauer, and Levin (1993) concluded much the same about the limited participation of women in early home computing: "Clearly for the majority of these women, the design, marketing, and interpretation of home computer hardware and software did not address their needs or the reality of their lives. Mothers view time in the home very differently; time required to master computer activities is a burden rather than an escape or pastime" (p. 90). 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 (e.g., Schumacher & Morahan-Martin, 2001) have argued that the gap has narrowed now that females have acquired more experience with the Internet and more content related to women's interests has become available. …