The researchers found that whereas men were more likely to visit entertainment, games and music websites, women were more attracted to social networking sites.
The study found differences in the internet experience of men and women was more apparent than ten years ago following the introduction of sites such as Facebook and microblogging sites such as Twitter.
Nearly 500 first year undergraduate students from six universities took part in the study, split between 389 women and 100 men with a mean age of 20.
The exercise was a repeat of an original study the researchers undertook ten years ago and aimed to analyse changes in internet use and whether the gender differences they found in 2002 remained in 2012.
The researchers found that the difference between men and women is more distinct than it was ten years ago since the advent of social networking sites.
Dr Richard Joiner, lead author of the paper Gender, Internet Experience Internet Identification and Internet Anxiety: A ten year follow up said: “Our findings indicate that rather than transcending or overcoming gender differences in wider society, internet use by males and females seems to reflect, and in some instances even exacerbate, these broader trends.
“In previous research we found no gender differences in the use of the internet for communication, whereas in the current study we found gender differences in communication and that females were using social network sites more than males.”
The research found that the mean age students started using the internet was 11 years old and they spend approximately 3.4 hours a day online.
Men were more likely to use the internet for games and entertainment, online betting and news sites. As well as social networking, women were also more likely to make travel reservations online.
Dr Joiner said: “Gender differences in the use of the internet are more a reflection of gender differences in wider society. It is important to continue to investigate these differences because of the importance of the internet in virtually every aspect of our lives and the erroneous assumption that all young people have similar and high level of technology ability and experience.”
The University of Bath is The Sunday Times ‘University of the Year’ 2011/2012.