The Study
An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.

The Families
Feature stories reflecting the Internet's impact on study participants' lives.

The Diaries
Statistics reported by people taking part in the project.

The Researchers
Janna Q. Anderson of the Elon School of Communications and 25 student researchers compiled this study.

The Neighborhood
Details about the town of Elon, N.C. and the neighborhood in this study.

Elon University

Pew Internet & American Life Project

"I like keeping in touch with people that I normally wouldn't call or take the time to write letters to. Actually what's neat is e-mailing my mom. She always forwards me jokes and stuff. This is the first year my mom and I have e-mailed each other, because she just learned how to use the e-mail at her work." - Sean Gill

Sean Gill Sean Gill

When he was in high school, Sean Gill was never really much interested in the Internet. Surfing the Web and using e-mail were not priorities for Sean three years ago. "Back then I really didn't have a need to use the Internet or computers - except for typing papers," Sean stated. The only things he used computers for were typing and playing solitaire.

When his freshman year at Elon University rolled around in the Fall of '98, Sean was in for quite a shock. Most students used the Internet for research, and a lot of teachers required certain things to be done online.

Catching up to the digital age

Sean quickly found out how far behind he actually was in the digital information age. He did not fully understand the way to utilize the Internet, and had trouble getting started on his e-mail account.

"I had never used e-mail before, although I had heard about it," he recalls. "I remember when I first started to use it, I e-mailed everyone. Though I still had a hard time locating teachers' Web sites and stuff. The fact that I was so out of touch with the use of the Internet really hurt me academically during my first semester."

Sean eventually recovered from his first-semester debacle, though it still took him a couple of months to learn how to get reliable sources on the Internet. "Thank goodness there were people at the Elon University library who could help me when I needed it," he said. "Friends would also help me when I needed it. That made it so much easier."

Sophomore year went a lot smoother for Sean. "It was a great feeling to go in my second year and know what I was doing," he said. "My grades were better, and things became a lot easier for me."

Sean has only used Instant Messenger once, and doesn't plan on using it again. "It's a great idea, but I prefer to talk with people over the phone and hear their voice, than just punch keys," he explained.

E-mail is vital for keeping in touch

Sean still only uses the Internet for research and e-mail. He doesn't play solitaire anymore, because he doesn't have time. E-mail is one part of digital-age life that Sean enjoys.

"I like keeping in touch with people that I normally wouldn't call or take the time to write letters to," he said. "Actually what's neat is e-mailing my mom. She always forwards me jokes and stuff. This is the first year my mom and I have e-mailed each other, because she just learned how to use the e-mail at her work."

Sean's mom said she likes being on the receiving end, getting more communication with her son. " I love e-mailing and keeping in touch with people," she said. "It also gives Sean a chance to send me little notes on how his week is going, so he doesn't have to call every couple of days."

Sean doesn't have Internet access in his apartment, so he must go on campus in order to go online. "It really isn't a hassle," he said. "In fact I like it because I get to go to the library and see people I normally wouldn't see."


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