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'm not looking forward to any of it, because I think technology is driving the way the world works too much. It's a driving force, which is scary. But at the same time there is somebody's mind behind all of it. That is what is more intriguing." -Larry Rhodes

The Rhodes Family
By Jacob Jarvis

In this age of dot-coms and instant messages complete with emoticons (a word most of us would find hard to even pronounce) one wouldn't even blink an eye in surprise when told that the Internet is playing a key role in the birth of what is soon to be another very recognizable part of the Elon University campus: A phoenix-shaped topiary to be placed near the new football stadium.

Larry Rhodes, the award-winning landscape and grounds manager at Elon University, came up with the idea of grooming a phoenix-shaped topiary to bring "something unique to the stadium that isn't seen most places." Larry is using the Internet to do all the research to find a suitable company to build the base for the mammoth living sculpture.

The stadium is expected to be complete within the next nine months, and the first game will be played on its turf in September. Rhodes must work ahead to be sure that the grounds are in great shape for the opening of this significant addition to the University, and he says the Internet has been a crucial part of the process.

"The Internet saves us from wasting more time and resources by doing things by trial and error," he explains. "We can do research on the Internet and bring in an expert outside source to construct this important element."

The project has special meaning for Larry because the new stadium is named for his parents, Peggy and Warren (Dusty) Rhodes, who live nearby in Gibsonville, N.C. They have made other significant contributions to the University, and all members of the Rhodes clan - young and old - are actively involved in Elon events.

All work and no play on the Net

Larry uses the Internet primarily for work-related activities such as inter-office e-mail and work-related Web browsing.

"I think my work day is somewhat structured around the Internet," he says. "I usually like to check my e-mail around three times a day and usually do around 20 minutes of work-related Web browsing to research new things to use relating to the landscape and grounds here at Elon."

Home time is family time - no Net

When the day ends and he retires to his home and family - his wife Scarlett and his two young children Dalton, a two-and-a-half-year-old and London who's one-and-a-half - Larry chooses to refrain from using the Net. "From the time I get home from work till bedtime it's family time for me," Larry says.

His wife Scarlett describes her take on the Net in a couple of short sentences: "I never use it. I don't have any interest in it." She says because she is a working mom with two very young children, she has little time to focus on anything other than the task of being a great mom.

Although the Rhodes consider themselves minimal home Internet users they have found it very useful at times. Larry recalls one time in particular when the Internet was a great help.

"We had been to a home improvement store and didn't get very good help, so we knew that we could just go to www-dot-whatever and order what we wanted to," he recalls.

Larry says that situations like this are typical of the family's Internet usage at home. "We usually only go to the Internet if there is a need to," he explains.

Both Scarlett and Larry do agree that as the children grow older they will undoubtedly spend more time online as a family. Larry says his ongoing education on using the Net will aid him in teaching and protecting his children in years to come.

"I know it is going to be a large part of my children's lives at some point in the future," he says. "The more I know and learn, the better off I will be at educating them in the future and keeping them from things that we don't want them to pursue."

Concerns about online content

Like many parents with children, the Rhodes are concerned with the availability of certain objectionable material on the Internet despite the fact that Dalton and London are still too young to use the Net. When asked if he supported the idea of a separate Internet for the adult content on the Net, Larry speaks frankly about the matter. "I'd say yes if it was going to keep it away from kids somehow," he replies. "Or I'd favor just not having it at all."

In this age of 700 free minutes and super-low, unlimited usage rates, it's not hard to understand why so many people are taking the plunge and getting online for the first time. Larry has no problem understanding this phenomenon, as some of the same reasons enticed him to go online from home for the first time three years ago.

"I think anyone is hesitant at first, but it's amazing how many people you can touch out there and how quickly you can do it," he says. "There are certain things in my industry that I wouldn't think are out there. But you just find a search engine and type something in and you're surprised at the wealth of information that is out there."

When asked if he is the most web-savvy member of the household Larry laughs, saying, "Savvy is questionable." Larry's dad, Dusty Rhodes, was one of the founding employees of Cisco Systems, a worldwide leader in networking for the Internet, but Larry says he's most comfortable working with landscapes instead of keyboards and circuits.

Larry gets very serious and begins to reflect when discussing the future of the Internet. "I'm not looking forward to any of it, because I think technology is driving the way the world works too much," he says. "It's a driving force, which is scary," he says. "But at the same time there is somebody's mind behind all of it. That is what is more intriguing."


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