Gender, Internet and Computer Attitudes and Experiences

Document Type



Published by Elsevier in Computers in Human Behavior, volume 17, Issue 1, Pages 95-110.

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Publication Source

Computers in Human Behavior


It is widely assumed that participation by females on the Internet is hampered by their attitudes towards computers, which in turn is reflective of their attitudes towards new technology. Research generally supports that females have less overall experience with computers and are more likely than males to have negative attitudes towards computers. Although limited, research on Internet experiences and attitudes has found parallel gender differences, with females reporting lower levels of experience and more negative attitudes. This paper explores whether Internet and computer experiences, skills and attitudes are related, using evidence from two studies of incoming college students, in 1989/90 and 1997. There were significant gender differences in many computer experiences and attitudes of incoming students in 1989/90. Males were more experienced with computers, more likely to have taken high school courses requiring computer use, and reported higher skill levels in applications such as programming, games and graphics than females. By 1997, incoming students were more experienced with using a computer than the earlier students. However, gender differences in computer experience and skill levels had diminished in some areas. The 1997 survey also assessed Internet experiences, skills, competence and comfort. Students had more exposure to computers than to the Internet. Males were more experienced and reported higher skill levels with the Internet than females, with the exception of e-mail. The overall competency and comfort level for students in 1997 was significantly higher for computers than for the Internet; 19% of the students did not feel competent and/or comfortable with the computer compared to 36% with the Internet, with females reporting higher levels of incompetence and discomfort for both. Competence and comfort levels with the Internet and computers were highly intercorrelated, and both predicted Internet skills and experiences.