Why Do Teen Girls Use Their Phones To Go Online More Than Boys Do?

Almost 30 percent of American teenage girls are “cell-mostly” Internet users–compared to 20 percent of the boys. What’s the difference behind the difference?

Why Do Teen Girls Use Their Phones To Go Online More Than Boys Do?

UPDATE: We asked you: Why do you think teen girls go online more than boys? Now we’ve updated this post with your responses.

The old stereotype has it that women like talking on the phone much more than men do. In the era of smartphones, however, it seems like being online may be more fun than just talking.

According to a recent surveyconducted by the Pew Institute and Berkman Center at Harvard, teen girls are taking the lead when it comes to mobile online activity.

Almost 30 percent of American teenage girls are “cell-mostly” Internet users–compared to 20 percent of the boys.

The survey, published in March, looked at the technology use of around 800 teens from the ages 12 to 17 and it was conducted between July and September of 2012.

Girls who have mobile access to the Internet on either their phone or a tablet are 76 percent, four percent more than boys.

Older girls are especially likely to use the Internet on their phones–34 percent of teen girls ages 14-17 say they mostly go online using their cell phone, 10 percent higher than teen boys the same age. This is notable since boys and girls are equally likely to be smartphone owners.

Although researchers are still unsure why girls go online on their phones more than boys do, they point out that this is an important emerging trend.

“While cell-mostly Internet use tracks with some of the same demographic trends as smartphone ownership (such as age), gender stands out as an especially important indicator,” reads the report.

Amanda Lenhart, senior researcher at the Pew Internet Project and one of the report’s authors, suggest a possible explanation: “Girls often place more calls, text more, and generally use social/communicative apps and sites more than boys–which reflects broader gender differences in communication beyond just that that occurs via technology,” she says. “It may be that girls are going online on their phones more to use sites and apps that allow them to communicate more with friends. But we don’t have hard numbers to demonstrate that.”

Sandra Cortesi of the Berkman Center and another of the report’s authors, suggests some possible questions for future research:

Do girls use their phones and tablets for the same things boys do?

Because girls use the Internet mostly via phone, does it mean that they use on average the Internet less amount of time on their computers than boys do?

And more importantly, how can we reliably measure and capture what it means to “be online?” Do we consider one to “be online” if an app is running on their phone but they’re not actively using it? What if I have multiple tabs open–do we only count the tab I’m actively viewing?

UPDATE: We asked you for your thoughts on why girls are going online with their mobile phones more than boys are. Here are a few of the most intriguing, surprising, and possibly controversial theories we received from our readers–if nothing else, the responses we received reveal some seemingly common perceptions about young women. What do you think?

About the author

Boryana Dzhambazova is a freelance journalist. Originally from Bulgaria, she started her journalism career in 2005, writing for both Bulgarian and foreign publications.



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