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Digital Literacy: Gender and Socio-Economic Aspects Essay

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Updated: Jun 2nd, 2021


The tremendous revolution in information and communication technology (ICT) has become remarkably dominant in everyday life. It entered both practical and scientific life until the situation reached the point of abandoning some traditional tools and replacing them with electronic or technical implements. This improvement of ICT literacy is defined into the vital 21st centrally as skills digital literacy (Ritzhaupt et al. 2013). The concept of digital literacy includes not only the ability to find data and access Internet sources. It also means the responsible and rational usage of digital technologies and tools to optimize everyday processes (Cooper, 2006). However, since digitalization has become ahead of the abilities of the majority of users, there is continuing debate around digital literacy as a gap between certain social groups.

The level of digital literacy development is not the same throughout the globe since there are differences between certain groups of people, determined by many factors, such as age, gender, education, and person’s status. Therefore, the ongoing divide between genders in a society based on digital capabilities suggests that significant socio-economic (SES) variables can impact adolescent’s literacy, particularly at home and school. This essay will demonstrate that gender has a minor influence on digital literacy, while SES has a major impact on digital literacy.

Gender Impact on Digital Literacy

In addition to the concept of ICT literacy, there is a term digital divide, denoting social inequality between people with different access to information technology. The digital divide is usually determined by the user’s gender, age, social status, or place of residence (Ritzhaupt, Liu, Dawson, & Barron, 2013). For many years, there has been a stereotype that one of the causes of the digital divide is gender. However, scientific data suggest that people of all parameters around the world are influenced by the digital divide. They claim that one of the problems of the gender digital divide is computer anxiety based on boys’ and girls’ models of socialization (Cooper, 2006). Therefore, it leads to differences in attitude to the computer and the way of searching for information.

A study conducted between Caucasian and African American children showed that girls use ICT more meaningfully and effectively (Jackson et al., 2008 cited in Ritzhaupt et al., 2013, p.4). Moreover, a study described by Cooper (2006, p.12) shows that females succeeded in learning and operating with a computer when they are alone. In contrast, in the presence of males, their learning decreased, and they experienced a high level of computer anxiety; thus, female’s performance was affected by mixed sex. When searching for information on the Internet, females browse fewer pages than males and look for relatively specific content. Additionally, girls with low social status often fail to answer the search question, while peers with higher social status were as successful as boys (Parycek et al. 2011. p.20).

Hence, the social context is attributed to the difference between the two genders as Weaver and Cooper (2003 cited in Cooper, 2006, p.12) insist that there is a relationship between stereotype and gender use of a computer. The evidence shows that the main reasons for various attitudes between the two genders towards digital literacy are the differences in social development between gender and stereotyped gender-specific models. The roots of computer anxiety forming the digital divide are in socialization patterns of males and females and differences in computer performance. For example, girls consider computer learning tools, not games, while boys like programs based on coordination, competition, and sports (Cooper, 2006, 12). Often, social stereotypes determine which behavior and attitude are acceptable for the two sexes. When combined with other factors in a social context, they can create expectations that men are more digitally literate than women (Cooper 2019 p.9 and Tondeur et al., 2016, p.61). Thus, it reinforces thoughts that link technology with gender and create an atmosphere that allows the digital divide to continue.

Socio-Economic Aspect of Digital Literacy

The most obvious factor affecting digital literacy is the socio-economic status of a person. The formation of individual literacy is based on social experiences that one encounters throughout life. It begins under the influence of a family and continues its development determined by the socio-economic aspects (McKenzie, 2015). Culture, identity, home, and school have a huge impact on the success of literacy, including digital literacy, of children. The statistics described by Parycek et al. (2011) showed that children from families with low socio-economic status are less skilled in using ICT. According to a study of the National Science Foundation, “nearly half of all White families in the United States own a home computer, but fewer than one quarter of African-American families own one” (Cooper, 2006, p. 9).

Family social status, economic aspect, type of school, and migration past have a significant impact on the development of digital literacy, and therefore on the digital divide. Moreover, dysfunctional families and former migrants also lag in ICT literacy. A particularly important indicator is family status combined with the type of school. The study of Maier-Rabler and Hartwig (2007) described by Parycek et al. (2011) states a structural disadvantage of students of the school type Hauptschule compared to students attending a Gymnasium. Another study by Hohlfeld, Ritzhaupt, and Barron (2010) found significant differences between high and low SES schools and the number of technology tools used to communicate with families and society. Moreover, in some countries, digital literacy can be conceived differently. It is connected to the individual, their home, culture, and school (McKenzie, 2015, 27). In developed states, the Internet is widespread and used in all areas of life. Therefore, people in such countries learn to operate with a computer at an early age in school and at home. Accordingly, they have a high level of digital literacy compared to those regions where progress is at a lower level. Thereby, digital literacy is defined by the opportunity to access information technology and Internet resources, based on the culture, economic, and social development of a country.


To sum up, the level of computerization is developing rapidly nowadays, playing an important role in almost all areas of human life. Everyone should have not only abilities to use the Internet but also the knowledge of digital literacy to operate with it reasonably. ICT literacy includes personal, technical, and intellectual skills necessary to live in a modern digital world. However, there is an unequal possession of ICT literacy due to various factors. According to analyzed scientific researches, the level of digital literacy depends on the socio-economic status of the individual, while gender does not have a significant impact.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Digital Literacy: Gender and Socio-Economic Aspects." June 2, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/digital-literacy-gender-and-socio-economic-aspects/.


IvyPanda. (2021) 'Digital Literacy: Gender and Socio-Economic Aspects'. 2 June.

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