The risks of the gender digital divide among teenagers


This article analyses the gender digital divide between teens from seven countries in Europe, Oceania and South America through a socio-cultural perspective. It compares which habits of use and consumption are attributed and performed by teens in multiple media and social media. It also scrutinizes whether these practices and uses are subjected to stereotyped gender roles.

The digital divide concept was originally associated with a level of access to information and communication technologies (Hargittai and Walejko, 2008). In societies with high ICT penetration, the phenomenon has been addressed by looking at a second level, which focuses on the uses, communication, creative, and instrumental skills (Van Deursen and Van Dijk, 2009). Finally, a third level focuses on the benefits obtained through technology (Ragnedda, 2017). These benefits cover economic, cultural, social and personal aspects (Van Deursen and Helsper, 2018). The last two levels open opportunities for reviewing the most optimistic visions regarding the end of the digital divide.

Although the access gap to devices and technologies concentrates the most significant political interest, the mental access or the lack of interest in ICTs is what has sustained the digital gender gap, such as the supposed technophobic attitude of women (Schradie, 2011). The digital gender gap basis is on the roles that provide social expectations and shape the male or female use of technology. From academia, access has been mainly explored in terms of inequality of opportunities of use, correlating economic, social, cultural, and political differences (DiMaggio and Bonikowski, 2008). However, gender has not been in-depth explored (Joiner et al., 2015). In this article, we look at the digital gender gap taking into account access, use, and consumption. We also explore sub-variables such as online content production.

The data of this study come from the (Name Anonym) research project (2015-2018). A questionnaire was applied to map the access, use, and media consumption and production habits of 1,520 teenagers. Based on univariate and bivariate data analysis, the results show that the digital gender divide still exists and takes shape through the persistence of gender stereotypes and roles associated with men and women and their relationship with media and technologies. Differences in access, use, consumption and production habits were detected. On the one hand, video games were one of the most significative cases that remain associated with boys. On the other hand, another significant case was the use of social networks and the creation of stories. It was identified as mostly associated with girls. The study concludes by indicating the need to pay attention to the found gender biases because they may imply risks concerning the development or inhibition of teens’ media skills.