On The Internet, The Sexes Surf True To Form

THE NET HAS REDEFINED ROLES IN THE MARKETPLACE IN JUST A FEW YEARS. Changing roles within families, however, looks like a tougher nut to crack.

With 34% of U.S. families now online, New York research firm Cyber Dialogue says that when mothers and fathers piled onto the Internet in 1998, they sought content reflecting traditional roles that decades of feminism have not, apparently, reversed. Moms went for health and parenting sites; dads loaded up on news, games, and money. Both visited movie, TV, and travel sites in almost equal numbers. "It more or less affirms the obvious," says Cyber Dialogue's Tom Miller. "Women are traditional caretakers of health and kids' learning. Men are the traditional investors."

Miller expects men's greater comfort with online investing, bill-paying, and other financial-services sites to be short-lived, even as the Web's other gender splits persist. In the aggregate, mothers have been on the Web for a shorter time than fathers, and experienced surfers are more comfortable with online finance regardless of gender. "Those numbers are going to change," he says.

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