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Gender Differences in the Style and Substance of Adolescents' Personal Home Pages
Unformatted Document Text:  Gender Differences 3 G ENDER D IFFERENCES IN THE S TYLE AND S UBSTANCE OF A DOLESCENTS ’ P ERSONAL H OME P AGES In 1999, Dominick concluded that personal home pages make it possible for anyone to be a mass communicator. 1 Indeed, in the past few years, several studies have found that many Internet users relish the possibility of reaching a mass audience, and personal home pages have become a popular mode of self-expression and communication. Recent research has found that adolescents, in particular, comprise a substantial portion of the growing number of home page authors. 2 However, little attention has been paid to the ways in which adolescents present themselves on their home pages. In one of the only studies attending to this topic, Stern qualitatively analyzed adolescent girls’ pages to find that the narratives provided on the pages were personal, intimate, and immediate. Emotional and relational lives were highlighted, and the home pages abounded with "stories of self, of developing personalities, of loneliness and depression, of disappointment with reality, but also of hopefulness about love and their futures." 3 Although the style and substance of girls’ personal home pages have been characterized to some extent, almost nothing is known about personal home pages created by adolescent boys. This is quite surprising, given that older adolescent boys are more likely to maintain personal home pages than girls the same age or younger boys and girls. 4 Indeed, much more is known about gender differences in adolescents’ uses of the Internet than about gender variations in the ways in which adolescents present themselves online, and on home pages, in particular. For example, we know that nearly equal numbers of boys and girls use the Internet. 5 Combined, boys and girls under the age of 18 account for 15.1% of total Internet users, and they are both finding it increasingly indispensable. A national sample of American 8- 18 year olds found that a computer with Internet access was the most preferable medium selected to bring to a desert island. 6 Email, instant messenger, and web surfing are everyday activities for most youth online, and a recent study found that almost one-fourth (24%) of online teenagers have created their own homepages. 7 Despite such usage figures, little is known about the features and content that characterizes adolescents’ home pages, and the gender differences, if any, that are apparent. To fill in this gap, this study addresses two key questions. First, what gender differences characterize this unique and

Authors: Stern, Susannah.
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background image
Gender Differences
3
G
ENDER
D
IFFERENCES IN THE
S
TYLE AND
S
UBSTANCE OF
A
DOLESCENTS
’ P
ERSONAL
H
OME
P
AGES
In 1999, Dominick concluded that personal home pages make it possible for anyone to be a mass
communicator.
1
Indeed, in the past few years, several studies have found that many Internet users relish
the possibility of reaching a mass audience, and personal home pages have become a popular mode of
self-expression and communication. Recent research has found that adolescents, in particular, comprise a
substantial portion of the growing number of home page authors.
2
However, little attention has been paid
to the ways in which adolescents present themselves on their home pages. In one of the only studies
attending to this topic, Stern qualitatively analyzed adolescent girls’ pages to find that the narratives
provided on the pages were personal, intimate, and immediate. Emotional and relational lives were
highlighted, and the home pages abounded with "stories of self, of developing personalities, of loneliness
and depression, of disappointment with reality, but also of hopefulness about love and their futures."
3
Although the style and substance of girls’ personal home pages have been characterized to some
extent, almost nothing is known about personal home pages created by adolescent boys. This is quite
surprising, given that older adolescent boys are more likely to maintain personal home pages than girls
the same age or younger boys and girls.
4
Indeed, much more is known about gender differences in
adolescents’ uses of the Internet than about gender variations in the ways in which adolescents present
themselves online, and on home pages, in particular. For example, we know that nearly equal numbers of
boys and girls use the Internet.
5
Combined, boys and girls under the age of 18 account for 15.1% of total
Internet users, and they are both finding it increasingly indispensable. A national sample of American 8-
18 year olds found that a computer with Internet access was the most preferable medium selected to bring
to a desert island.
6
Email, instant messenger, and web surfing are everyday activities for most youth
online, and a recent study found that almost one-fourth (24%) of online teenagers have created their own
homepages.
7
Despite such usage figures, little is known about the features and content that characterizes
adolescents’ home pages, and the gender differences, if any, that are apparent. To fill in this gap, this
study addresses two key questions. First, what gender differences characterize this unique and


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