An introduction to this study of family use of the Internet.
"It seems that the Internet will be to our children, exactly
what television was to us. They won't know what it is like to live without it."
The Jones Family
By Allison Deiboldt
Scooters zoom across the kitchen, singing fills the upstairs playroom and children are chasing a kitten down the stairs. Todd and Kelli Jones have three children under the age of six.
With all this activity, one would think that taking an hour of time out of their schedule to surf the Internet would be the last thing on their minds. The truth is exactly the opposite.
Todd and Kelli Jones use their Earthlink Internet connection to focus on and improve many aspects of their family life. The Jones family uses the Gateway P6-350 personal computer in their living room for everything from planning family vacations to researching car-safety reports. And their online activity is only increasing.
"The Internet is like an information utility, because from news to sports, I can look at it all on my desktop, and I don't even need to look at a newspaper anymore," proclaimed Todd. "The more we use our computer, the more it's worth our investment."
Children add to the adults' uses of the Net
Todd, an engineer and Webmaster for Splawn Belting, Inc., said that when the family first went online in 1998, it was specifically for news and information purposes. "Now I use the Internet every day for e-mail and when I can, I take the time to work on our company's Web site," said Todd.
With the growth of their family since they first went online, the uses for the Internet in their home have grown as well.
Kelli, a medical transcriptionist, says that she logs on for reasons ranging from checking out Martha Stewart.com to locating coupons for Chuck-E-Cheese and local restaurants. While Kelli says she enjoys saving her family's money online, she also admits their slow Internet connection brings many frustrations as well.
"Oh, that just drives me nuts!" she exclaims. "It is so annoying when you are just sitting there waiting to see something."
Todd, 32, says he takes advantage of his T1 connection at work and surfs the Net more there instead of waiting at home. "I think that within the next few months we will sign up for Road Runner," said Todd. "I just need to convince Kelli to spend the money. But the more she uses the Internet, the more she realizes its necessary."
Gift giving seems easier with use of the Internet
Kelli, 33, said that during Christmas and birthdays, she and Todd use the Internet as an easy gift-giving tool. Surfing sites such as LandsEnd.com and LLBean.com, Kelly was able to comparison shop before Christmas this year for items such as slippers, robes and gloves.
"I definitely think the Internet is heading in the direction of revolutionizing our society, at least our neighborhood," laughed Kelli. "I couldn't believe how much Federal Express and UPS were coming through this neighborhood during December. It seemed like it was because everyone was using the Internet for ordering their presents."
Last year, Todd and Kelli used the Internet to locate a birthday present for their 3- year-old son, Andy.
"His birthday is in January, and being right after Christmas all the stores were sold out of the Power Wheels four-wheeler he wanted," said Todd. "Kelli was able to get it at Amazon.com and have it delivered within a week before his birthday. We could not have done that without the Internet."
Todd and Kelli recently applied for an American Express Blue Credit Card, which gives bonuses on specific Web sites as well as heightened security features. Using a reader chip connected to the cardholder's computer and a personal PIN number, the Blue Card protects shoppers by identifying and keeping them protected against Internet fraud. "We felt like it was safer," said Todd. "At least it would give us the least liability."
Planning a family journey to D.C.
Friday afternoon, Kelli was busy checking the Washington, D.C., weather online while Todd was showing Berkley and Andy where they would be headed that night on an online driving map.
The Joneses took advantage of their Internet connection to plan their weekend vacation to Washington, D.C. "I went online at work so I could check out the White House.gov and the National Park Service Web sites in order to plan for our trip," explained Todd. "I was able to download maps and get information about tour times and things like that."
The couple said they also used Yahoo! Maps in order to get driving directions to the friend's house they would be staying at for the weekend. "It was great - in about two hours, I basically had everything I needed to know," said Todd.
A useful tool for househunting
In 1999, the Jones family decided to move across the railroad tracks from Gibsonville, N.C., to Elon. The Internet was useful to them every step of the way.
"When we were getting ready to move, the Internet was a big thing that helped," explained Kelli. "I was always looking up house plans and things like that online because we were originally going to build on some land."
Kelli said that after she would see "For Sale" signs in the area or listings for homes in the local newspaper, she would go online to real estate agency Web sites to look at the homes' information and view pictures of the houses' interiors.
After finding their current home in the Ashley Woods neighborhood, Todd and Kelli used e-mail to keep in contact with their real estate agent during the purchase of the home. "In addition to e-mailing the real estate agent, the seller of this house had already moved back to California, so e-mail was a big help in that area as well," said Kelli.
Researching another major purchase - an automobile
"The Internet was a highly used tool in deciding what car we would buy," said Kelli. "We discussed the Nissan Quest mini-van and would look up safety reports on it and things like that." Kelli and Todd also researched the pros and cons of leasing versus buying cars in addition to e-mailing local car dealers about leasing specials they would see online.
Kelli explained they are "living proof" of the Quest's safety record because shortly after buying their mini-van, they were involved in an accident. "We were happy that we checked out the safety records online first," said Kelli. "The Quest had one of the best records out there, and lucky for us, that was a big influence in our decision."
Vital medical information helps family
"I am just one of those people who likes to - you know - research and always know more!" exclaimed Kelli. "It seems like I have used the Internet a lot for medical information we needed for our family."
In 1998, the Jones family found out that Kelli's mom might have lung cancer. Kelli immediately turned to the Internet, using resources like the American Cancer Society's Web site, in order to get more information regarding the disease. "I checked out things like the specific stages of lung cancer and detailed treatments for it," she recalled. "Luckily for us it ended up not being cancer, but I was happy that I was well informed anyway."
Polio struck Todd's father when he was just a teenager, and years later, in 2000, Todd sought out the help of the Internet to research more about the disease. "His father asked us to check out things such as post-Polio syndrome and ways in which his aging would affect his disease," said Kelli. "It was nice that we could help him out using the Internet as a medical tool."
Kelli also used the Internet after she gave birth to a stillborn child. "The doctors explained to me that I had antiphosphilipid syndrome, but they did not know very much about it at the time," said Kelli. "I would search around the Web to get more information and I also looked up high-risk pregnancy information as well. It was nice to know more about what I had and how do deal with it."
Looking forward to the future
"It seems that the Internet will be to our children, exactly what television was to us," said Todd. "They won't know what it is like to live without it."
A bold statement by Todd Jones, but one that he and his wife Kelli believe to be true. Although their three children do not yet use the Internet, their parents realize they will incorporate it into their lives and school studies. "Just one example: they will use it for things like research papers," said Kelli. "As they get older they will realize the value."
Todd and Kelli say they do not have plans to introduce the Internet to their children until they ask about it or begin to work on a project at school using it. They explained that once they do begin to use the Internet more when they get older, they plan on keeping the family PC in the family room so they can "keep checking on the children and what they are doing online."
"Well before we got the Internet, we had fears of all the bad things that were out there, because it seemed like we heard more of the bad than the good," said Todd. "But I don't think we have had much of a problem with anything online, so we will definitely use it with them."
Todd explained that he looks forward to better search engines in the future, ones that will not "produce 400-some thousand results from one word." Kelli says she believes that more information and connection with teachers in the public schools will benefit their children's lives as well as their own.
Todd and Kelli Jones work directly with the Internet in order to have information and connect their family first-hand. Kelli explains, "It creates conversation between the two of us, we share things that we learn online with each other."
Todd stated, "It's like you can get what you want, when you want it. And you don't have to wait for the 6 o'clock news for things any more. It is so interesting to choose the things you want to look it, and I really do think that if people use it right, it's a great resource."
Elon University, North Carolina
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Last Modified:January 2001
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