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

"At this point in my life I would like to work with computer. I think it's because they are challenging me all the time. Whether it's programming or just troubleshooting, you're always bound to run into a problem that requires some creative thinking." -Greg Verdelli

Greg Verdelli Greg Verdelli

The vice-president of operations at Verdelli Farms. A Dauphin County middle school physical education instructor. A marketing account coordinator for Dole Fruit Company. A senior at Elon University. A high school senior. These five "occupations" help to explain Internet usage of each member of the Verdelli family.

Mom, dad too busy to be online much

Dan Verdelli, a 49-year-old Temple University graduate, has minimal use for the Internet, even as executive vice-president of operations and CEO of his family business.

"I am primarily responsible for the buying of produce and the day-to-day operations of Verdelli Farms," remarks Dan. "I am exposed to both computers and the Internet all day, but I don't actually complete my daily tasks on them. The only thing I really do on the Internet is look at colleges for Matt."

As a physical education teacher, Steph Verdelli rarely utilizes the Internet during her day at school. "Since I am a gym teacher, most of what I do is physical activities with the kids, like basketball or stretching," she says. "The kids come to my class to get a break from the computers and the Internet." Steph's main use of the Internet at school is for lesson plan ideas.

Travel, research keep Jen on the Net

Jen Verdelli, a 2000 graduate of Rutgers University, uses the Internet continuously at work at her job with Dole as well as after hours at home.

"My job involves frequent travel, so the Internet is the first place I go to for directions, airplane and hotel reservations, and information on the store I am assigned to visit," she says. "What's great is that I have a laptop to take while traveling which allows me to touch base at anytime with my supervisor and coworkers."

Jen also says a majority of communication within her office is done through the Internet. "No one sends memos anymore to inform you of meetings or client visits," she explains. "It's all done via e-mail."

Before working, Jen's use of the Internet was even more frequent. "As a food science major, I had my share of research papers and studies," she says. "The Internet was my ultimate source for research - not just for searching the campus library catalog, but for case studies, statistics, and visual aids. I could also chat with professionals in the food science field and ask for their experiences and quotes for my papers. It was very convenient in that I could get the information anytime, any day."

Greg wants to work on the Web

The undisputed computer nerd in the family is Greg. He began taking computer programming classes his sophomore year in high school. Although this may seem like a late start, Greg has been the computer whiz of the family since fourth grade, when Dan brought home an IBM PC Jr.

"I remember that computer," says Greg. "It had a drive for 5-1/4-inch floppy disks, and a drive more or less for game cartridges. The computer ran only on DOS, and it only took me a couple weeks before I was better on it than my dad."

Today, Greg would like to find a career in Web development or computer information. "At this point in my life I would like to work with computers," explains Greg. "I think it's because they are challenging me all the time. Whether it's programming or just troubleshooting, you're always bound to run into a problem that requires some creative thinking."

Matt seeks a college online

The college application process is what keeps Matt Verdelli, an 18-year-old high school senior, on the Internet.

"Sure I do research for paper topics and other assignments, but right now I really use the Internet to find colleges," he says. "A lot of college Web sites even have virtual tours that are neat to watch. I can also request an application package online at night which saves me from trying to call during normal business hours when I'm in classes."

The pursuit of pleasure

The Verdellis are quite familiar with the Internet when it comes to using it for pleasure. Every Verdelli has used and still uses America Online's Instant Messenger. Each Verdelli has his or her own screen name on AOL other e-mail host sites as well, including Hotmail and Yahoo. Every family member also has his/her favorite Web sites, and some have even developed their own Web pages.

Steph's favorite use of the Internet focuses on shopping. She also made the point that she uses the Internet more at home as a mother of three.

"I order presents online and make vacation plans on the Internet," she explains. "To me, it's a lot more convenient and I can usually find what I'm looking for. Every once in a while I will order athletic clothing and stuff from sights like Roadrunner, but only when they are having sales and free shipping."

Other family members also shop online. "That is because it is so easy and convenient," says Jen. "Although I had some problems buying online for Christmas. I ordered presents for my mom and a friend from www.GiantSavings.com on Dec. 11. Two weeks after Christmas they still had not arrived. I was really frustrated by it. I still don't have the present, two months after I ordered it. They told me it was back-ordered from the company. They said they would call me back. They never did."

While Matthew is on the Internet searching for colleges, he is also instant messaging his friends. "I use the Internet for chatting with friends every night. I usually talk to about 20 to 30 people while I'm online," explains Matt.

The apples fell far from the tree

Did it take certain members of the Verdelli family longer than others to become accustomed to the Internet?

"Jen, Greg, and Matt whipped right through everything," exclaims Steph. "Dan and I took it one step at a time. It's amazing at some of the things these kids know how to do on the Internet, and I'm twice their age! It took Jen and Greg leaving for college for me to really get used to the e-mail way of life."

Dan agrees. "I didn't even want to get involved at first because everything looked too complicated and I was already happy not using it. E-mail took me a little bit of time to learn, but I realized the value of it for communicating with my family. I had Greg help me out with it more than a couple times!"

Family genealogy on the Net

The Internet has also helped to bring the family together in more ways than one.

"One day I received an e-mail from my cousin in Wilkes-Barre," explains Steph. "He wanted me to send him old pictures of my father and his siblings when they were young children that my father had given me. So I had Greg scan them into the computer for me and send them to my cousin. My cousin said that he was working on creating a family genealogy site for my family, the Pawlaks. I thought that this was a great idea. I am excited to see the finished site."

Is there a doctor in the house?

The Web has found one more use for the Verdelli family. "I like to look up medical and health information online," says Steph. "Whenever someone in the family has a problem, I go online to try and find out what it is and any remedies. The first time I started looking for medical information online was when my son Greg had sleeping problems. The doctors told us that there was nothing that they could do for him. So I looked online for help and herbal remedies.

"Eventually I found a supplement called melatonin. It is an over-the-counter drug used to help mild sleep disorders and jet lag without any side effects. This allows the body to release more serotonin at night and help you sleep better."

A penny saved is a penny earned

The Verdellis recently realized how much money they have saved thanks to the Internet.

"All of us do things every day on the Internet that save us money," explains Greg. "Whether we realize it or not we really do. Personally I like to read magazines such as Maxim online. I also am able to download free trials of computer programs that I can try out before I think of buying anything.

"Long-distance phone calls are also beginning to become really cheap. Every once in a while I will call people from my computer with Phone Free.com. This enables the user to make free long-distance phone calls anywhere in the United States. I don't use this all the time though because the technology is still primitive, and you don't get the same audio quality that you get from a normal phone. But it is always neat to tell someone that you're calling them for free from your computer."

E-mail is a first-rate communication tool

One of the biggest money savers for the Verdellis has to be e-mail. "We all use e-mail to communicate, especially with our kids who don't live at home," declares Steph.

"I think e-mail has not only saved us money from the telephone, but it has also kept us in better communication with each other. It is easy during the day at work to send off a little message to Dan or one of my kids."

The Verdellis say they enjoy using the Internet for many different reasons. Whether it's for communicating through e-mail or using Instant Messenger, making purchases online, or looking for medical information, they say they will always be avid users of the Internet.

They expect their skills and interests in computers will continue to advance and stay current with the latest and absolute best in technology.


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