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

"It's so much easier to find an article, click on it, and print it than it is to have to go to the library and find the publication on the shelf. I go to the Elon library homepage and then click on EBSCOhost, ProQuest, FirstSearch or Lexis Nexis. It's as simple as that." -Betsy Snavely

Betsy Snavely Betsy Snavely

Oh, there's no place like home for the holidays, most college students agree. Students such as Betsy Snavely, a 21-year-old junior at Elon University, look forward to a long break from school, relaxing and eating wonderful home-cooked meals.

When going home to Hilton Head Island, S.C., for fall, Thanksgiving, or Christmas break, Betsy enjoys spending time with her family, but feels at loss at times without her college friends. "I'm so used to seeing my college friends every day," explains Betsy, "so when I go home for break, I have withdrawal."

Behold, the Internet comes to the rescue. Betsy became hooked on Instant Messenger three years ago, when she entered Elon as a freshman.

"Someone told me about it, and I had to try it out," Betsy says. "I loved it from the start, and have been a dedicated user ever since." Betsy spends hours at home talking to college friends online.

Besides using the Internet away from college, Betsy has also found it to be beneficial at school for educational purposes. She has gone online numerous times to locate articles, journals and magazines and do research.

"It's so much easier to find an article, click on it, and print it," says Betsy, "than it is to have to go to the library and find the publication on the shelf."

The Elon University library homepage has become Betsy's first step in researching online. "I go to the Elon library homepage and then click on EBSCOhost, ProQuest, FirstSearch or Lexis Nexis," explains Betsy. "It's as simple as that." She says convenience and simplicity are the major benefits of the Internet.

Online shopping is an attraction

Speakers, DVDs, computers and stereo receivers are the personal interests of Betsy's father, Ken Snavely. Ken, a purchasing agent for Hargray Telephone Company, uses the Internet on a daily basis at work. Outside of work, he finds it exciting to shop online for electronics.

Just recently, Ken visited the Web site www.bostonacoustics.com to shop for speakers for the family's living room. While surfing the site, Ken checked for dealers who sell Boston Acoustics speakers and found them in a store in Atlanta. "The trick is to know exactly what you want," Ken explains. "You should research it yourself, because there aren't any salespeople online to help you."

Once Ken found the speakers, he simply called the Atlanta store to reserve them. The Snavelys made a weekend trip out of the speaker deal when they decided to drive to Atlanta to pick up the speakers themselves. Ken says he doesn't just make purchases online. He also enjoys shopping and viewing items for sale. "Shopping online helps you find the best deal, and you save money that way," says Ken.

"Do I hear $500? Do I hear $600? $600 going once, going twice, sold to Ken Snavely for $600!" Although Ken does not actually hear these words out loud, he imagines them when bidding online. Ken loves bidding for items on the site www.ubid.com.

He has put in bids on vacations, specialty items and cruises. The site allows the bidder to place a bid on an item and when the bid closes, the highest bidder wins the prize. Ken has found that waiting until the last minute has helped him win.

"Why go to a store and spend $15,000, for example on a plasma TV," Ken says, "when you can bid for it on www.ubid.com and possibly win it for half the price?"

Teacher uses Internet in the classroom

Whether it's visiting a site on an island in Greece or about Stonehenge, Nancy Snavely, an English and mythology teacher at Hilton Head High School, uses the Internet frequently in her classroom.

If she is teaching her students about a particular myth or a specific English writer, Nancy can point and click right to a picture or information on the topic. "I have found that my students love the interactive learning," Nancy explains.

Nancy constantly reviews vocabulary with her students. She also teaches an SAT preparation course to help students with the verbal section of the test. She has found that the Internet has helped her students tremendously with vocabulary.

"If my students don't know a definition of a word, I tell them to get online at the Webster's site to check it," Nancy explains. " They no longer have to reach for a dictionary, but can instead hop right on the computer and find the definition just as fast."

One of Nancy's dearest friends lives far across the ocean, in France. TransAtlantic phone calls used to be a high expense for both ladies, but now with the Internet, the two friends can e-mail each other anytime for free.

Nancy explains her appreciation, "I doubt I would keep in touch with her as much if it wasn't for e-mail." Nancy spends most of her time online using e-mail both at work and at home. She has found it is the easiest way to keep in touch with friends and family, especially her two children, who are both away in college.

E-mail also assists Nancy in touching base with her students and their parents. Her school encourages its teachers to give parents and students their e-mail addresses in order to keep in touch easily.

"Just the other day, a student e-mailed me because she was home sick with the chicken pox," says Nancy, " I was able to get back to her quickly by e-mailing her the assignments she had missed."

Nancy also e-mails parents to give out students' progress reports or update them with good news. The helpfulness of e-mail has amazed this 28-year veteran of teaching, and she says she will continue to use it for school purposes in the future.

Future Web designer in the family

The youngest member of the Snavely family, 18-year-old Andy, is the most computer-savvy one of the bunch. Andy began designing his own Web sites at age 15. He is now a graphic design major at Champlain University in Vermont. His father, Ken, recently spent some quality time shopping online and ordered a brand-new Dell 4100 PC for Andy to enhance his design abilities. With this new computer, Andy is able to practice and master his creativity.

Andy, an active Internet user for the past four years, has seen his favorite sites change as he has grown into a young adult. Today he uses the Internet for educational and recreational purposes.

Since his move to Vermont, Andy has become an active snowboarder. He often snowboards in Stowe, which is about an hour away from Champlain University. Before he packs up his gear and heads out for a day on the slopes, Andy hops on the Internet to check the weather conditions in Stowe. "Being able to check the weather online is the quickest way to decide if I should go snowboarding or not and risk bad conditions," Andy explains.

Andy, an avid concert-goer, frequently visits the site www.pollstar.com to check local concert dates. "If I find a concert that is nearby," says Andy, "I'll tell my friends about it, and we'll take a weekend trip together."

Although the Internet serves as a means of entertainment for Andy, he has found the Internet to be the most resourceful for his graphic design interests. He will often surf around online and view other sites for design ideas. Having such a love for computers and the Internet, Andy will continue to stay hooked on this technology for many years to come.

Family bonding online

Looking around their empty home for the second year in a row, Ken and Nancy Snavely are still getting used to having both of their children away at college.

"It's so quiet in the house now," says Nancy. "We're used to all the noise of the phone ringing off the hook for the kids, or the slamming of the front door from their friends coming in and out."

Although the Snavelys often talk to their children on the phone, they have found yet another reason to value their Internet connection. The Snavely family uses e-mail to keep in touch with each other or to simply send daily hellos.

Betsy and her parents say they enjoy using www.bluemountain.com to send warm greetings to each other. "I love to send Blue Mountain cards to my parents to let them know that I'm thinking about them and that I miss them," says Betsy.

With her youngest child all the way in Vermont, Nancy even visits www.weather.com to look up the weather in her son's area. "I like to see the weather for Burlington because it brings me closer to Andy," she explains. The Snavely family has always been close-knit, and now that they are apart more often, the Internet allows them to keep their special bond alive.


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