Families' uses of the Internet
This thesis explores how families explain and justify their uses of the internet within the home. It focuses on three key purposes for which the internet is used - education, work and leisure - and discusses these in the context of power relations within families. Whilst previous research exists in relation to children's and adults' internet use, there is little which investigates use embedded within the context of everyday family life. An added dimension of this research is in its exploration of how internet use changes over time. The findings are drawn from qualitative data based on longitudinal research carried out with 17 UK families. The data collection consisted of in-depth interviews, diaries and observation carried out over a two year period. The study challenges the rhetoric, rife within the public domain, that the internet is transforming our daily lives, revolutionizing leisure, education, learning and working at home. Instead, families view the internet with ambivalence, and incorporate it into the pre-existing routines of their lives in mostly rather banal and narrow ways. Furthermore, not only are some family members struggling to learn the functional, critical and creative skills and competencies to be able to use the internet in the first place, but parents' regulation strategies may also be preventing children from developing abilities to use the internet safely. A further concern addressed here is that inequalities in access persist between families and within families connected to the internet. Whilst the changes within the sample families are more related to employment and education than family breakdown, these changes prompt shifts in families' uses incrementally at key points in addition to the day-to-day fluctuations that occur. This, therefore, reflects the dialectical relationship between the medium and the individual through which use is configured; and it is ultimately this relationship that determines what the internet can become.