Dec. 30, 2005 — -- The days of men dominating the Internet may be over, a new study finds. But, according to the study, the two sexes use the Web for very different things.
The study says 68 percent of men and 66 percent of women now go online. Since women make up a larger portion of the population, that means they outnumber men in cyberspace.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project surveyed more than 20,000 men and women over five years as part of research sponsored by the Pew Charitable Trust, a Philadelphia foundation that focuses on informing the public and supporting civic life.
Although a similar percentage of men and women use the Internet, the study found they often use it quite differently.
The research suggests men largely go online to pursue solitary pursuits, while women use the Internet to enrich their existing relationships.
Men go online to further their hobbies, for example. They are much more likely to use the Internet to read online, take Web classes and take part in sports-fantasy leagues. More men than women will download software and music or use a Web cam.
By contrast, 94 percent of women who go online do so for e-mail. Women see e-mail as a way to nurture friendships. They'll write to family and friends to share news and stories, ask for advice and discuss plans. When men use e-mail, it tends to be for work-related activities or for forwarding jokes or humorous stories. Believe it or not, women are just as likely as men to use the Internet to play games, listen to music, watch videos and share files. And both sexes are equally likely to gamble online. In fact, 4 percent of the population surveyed gambled online.
Both sexes have tapped the Internet as a powerful research tool, but Pew found they seek different information. Men go online to find weather, news, sports, political, financial and do-it-yourself information. For women, searches for health, medical and religious information are more typical.
Women are also more likely to use the Internet to obtain maps and directions. It seems some things never change. Men hate asking for directions so much that many won't even ask a computer!
The Pew report found men are more interested in underlying technology than women are. As a result, they experiment more and are more likely to solve their own computer problems. They know the latest terms and tech-related issues.
Women are more likely to fear the Internet. They worry about porn, crime, viruses and privacy. Many don't understand the complexities of the technology. Teen girls are an exception, however. The report found teenage girls run neck and neck with teenage boys in trying out challenging online technologies.
All adults -- both men and women -- are more likely to use the Internet if they have kids. It seems their children are either demanding to use the Internet at home or may even be teaching their parents how to navigate it. If that holds true, future studies of men and women and Internet use could yield profoundly different results.