Netiquette within married couples

How do married couples perceive the use of the Internet within their relationship? Partners within a marriage mostly share the same values and behavioral patterns. They will probably have the same ideas and attitudes towards acceptable online behavior? They will generally assume that their partners will not engage in cybersex and hotchatting, you can read more about relationships and their mistakes here.

But men and women differ, they also differ in the use of Internet.

  • Women showing a narrower use of the internet than men, men can use it for blogging, games, photo sharing etc. Women usually use it for either blogging or photo sharing or….
  • Women are more likely to have lower computer self-efficacy and less positive internet attitudes. This is related to a low level of confidence in the use of technical equipment.
  • Men are more associated with activities that have been associated with internet addiction such as gambling, gaming and pornography)
  • Men usually take more risks in their online activity. Women are more aware of privacy and economic risks in online transactions

But do they also differ in netiquette knowing that partners within a marriage mostly share the same values and behavioral patterns?
Results from this study:

  • Couples with children aged 17 or younger use the internet the most
  • 6% of married internet users have met their partner online. The most likely meeting places for these couples were online dating sites (32%), instant messaging (20%) and chat rooms (17%)
  • Within married couples the partners do share the same attitude towards the type of behaviors that are acceptable and unacceptable. That is they share the same view on their evaluation of specific activities which might be considered problematic as regards emotional or sexual infidelity and addiction. Nevertheless this isn’t true for the time spent online, there is no significant similarity between married partners as regards the time they spent online.
  • Women find the time spent online more problematic than men, it was almost always the women who complained about their own or the men’s problematic behavior. Men find their own behavior and that of others including women less of a problem, they were more likely to think online behaviors were acceptable.
  • Couples had a high level of agreement on the unacceptability of online infidelities and the acceptability of entertainment activities such as gambling and gaming. Falling in love with someone online and engaging in cybersex with someone else topped the list of being unacceptable.
  • In around a third of the couples at least one person checked their partner’s emails or read their partner’s SMS messages without them knowing and in a fifth of the couples at least one the partners had checked their spouse’s browser history. Similarity between partners in this kind of behavior was high. If one monitored the other, the change was very high that the other partner also monitored their partner, and vice versa. If one partner monitored the other it was most likely to be the woman.

How was this study: Me, My Spouse and the Internet, done?

An (anonymous) online survey with married couples who used the Internet. An independent market research company, ICM Research, contacted its panel of internet users to draw a representative sample of the UK population. The panel consists of 100,000 individuals recruited through a nationally representative telephone omnibus survey in the UK which runs twice weekly among 1000 adults. Other sources are also used to recruit panellist, such as recruitment via other websites. Through these methods ICM has constructed a panel that consists of a representative sample of the UK population.

What do you think?
Helsper, E., & Whitty, M. (2010). Netiquette within married couples: Agreement about acceptable online behavior and surveillance between partners Computers in Human Behavior DOI: 10.1016/j.chb.2010.02.006