"Christians and the Internet" newsletter
CATI, Vol. 1, No. 14:  April 7, 2000.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.

To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe to
CATI" in the Subject line and your real name and email address
to which you wish CATI sent in the body.  (To be removed from
 the emailing list, also write to cati@traver.org, but include
 "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)
Is the Internet beneficial to society?  How does it affect how
people relate to one another?  These are important questions.
You'll find a press release for an interesting recent report
on "Internet and Society" at this address:
The study was done by the Stanford Institute for the
Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS), whose home Web page
can be found here:
At the site you can download the full Preliminary Report in 
Adobe Acrobat format, but we'll restrict our attention here
to the press release.  We'll look at it in some detail, for
in order to make proper use of the study we need to consider
the extent to which the conclusions are really justified from
the statistics upon which they are supposedly based.  (Though
I've taught mathematics on the college level, don't worry if
you don't have a math background.  All that's required is a
bit of common sense.)
Here's how the press release starts:
"As Internet use grows, Americans report they spend less time
with friends and family, shopping in stores or watching
television.... These are the major preliminary results of
a new study that is the first assessment of the social
consequences of Internet use based on a large, representative
sample of American households, including both Internet users
and non-users. The study was conducted by the Stanford
Institute for the Quantitative Study of Society (SIQSS)...."
The report focuses on social interaction:
"A key finding of the study is that 'the more hours people
use the Internet, the less time they spend in contact with
real human beings,' said Stanford Professor Norman Nie,
Director of SIQSS and principal investigator along with his
co-investigator Professor Lutz Erbring of the Free University
of Berlin."
To what extent is it true that "Americans report they spend
less time with friends and family"?  You'll soon see that the
mathematical statistics are less impressive on this point than
you might imagine from Nie's statement.
For the time being, however, let us simply observe that when
people interact with other people on the Internet (through
email, chat rooms, etc.), Professor Nie apparently does not
consider that to be time spent in contact with "real human
beings," even though many of us not only appreciate how the
Internet allows us to keep in contact with friends and family
who are not geographically nearby, but also involve other
household members in our Internet activity (e.g., as when
parents and children enjoy exploring the Internet together).
Anyway, here's one of the preliminary "findings":
"Up to a quarter of the respondents who use the Internet
regularly (more than 5 hours a week) feel that it has reduced
their time (in person or on the phone) with friends and family
or attending events outside the home." 
That may sound disturbing, until you recognize that the same
statistics can be expressed in this way:  75% or more of the
people who use the Internet more extensively do NOT feel
that it has reduced their time with friends and family or
going to outside social functions or activities!  That, to
me, should be the perhaps surprising fact.  Yes, there can
be such a thing as addiction to the Internet (and we should
guard against that), but most people (even those who use the
Internet more than others) try not to let it cut down on
time with friends and family.
Another preliminary finding:
"Sixty percent of regular Internet users say the Internet has
reduced their TV viewing...."
This is also true of less frequent Internet users:
"'Even among those who spend only a few hours a week on the
net, a quarter tell us it cuts into their TV viewing,' said
Hooray!  The average American spends two and a half to three
hours a day (that's more than fifteen to twenty hours a week)
watching the household "boob tube" or "idiot box," which is
usually a very passive experience (with no interactivity), so
I personally am not very concerned about the fact that "the
Internet has reduced...TV viewing."  (I hope to say more about
television vs. the Internet in a future issue of CATI.)    
Another preliminary finding:
"About two-thirds of those surveyed who have Internet access
said they spend fewer than five hours a week on the Internet,
and most of them did not report large changes in their
day-to-day behavior, the researchers said."
There's more, however:
"But [those] who use the Internet five or more hours a week do
report significant changes in their lives. The largest changes
are reported by those who spend more than 10 hours a week on
the net--individuals who currently account for only 15 percent
of all Internet users but are likely to be a much larger
fraction in the future."
Well, common sense tells us that "significant changes" should
be expected when a person spends more than 10 hours a week
on an activity (any activity).  The question is whether the
"significant changes" are largely beneficial or not.  The
contention of the report, however, is that the Internet is
increasing "social isolation":
"'Internet time is coming out of time viewing television but
also out at the expense of time people spend on the phone
gabbing with family and friends or having a conversation with
people in the room with them,' Nie said."
Where true, that is regrettable, but to what degree is such
"social isolation" taking place?  Consider again the actual
"Of regular Internet users, who use the net 5 or more hours
per week, about one quarter indicated report spending less
time with family and friends, either in person or on the
phone, and eight percent say they spend less time attending
social events outside the home."
That's not a large number, and I know some wives who have
expressed appreciation for the time their husband spends on
the computer or the Internet because it keeps him home at
night and they get to see him more than they might otherwise!
According to Nie, "The most common Internet activities...are
sending and receiving electronic mail and searching for
information."  He does admit that "most Internet users use
e-mail, and undoubtedly have increased their 'conversations'
with family and friends through this medium," but he doesn't
consider that to be "contact with real human beings":
"'E-mail is a way to stay in touch, but you can't share a
coffee or a beer with somebody on e-mail or give them a hug,'
he said."
Maybe not, but my wife enjoyed the Valentine's card that I
sent her via email (thanks to Blue Mountain Arts), and she
liked it so much that she showed all her friends!  (And we
do try to reserve time for "hugs" as well. <grin>)
Some more concessions are made:
"...Erbring said, 'those who use the Internet most also
report spending fewer hours caught in traffic, fewer hours
in shopping malls, and especially, less time watching
television....  One in four regular Internet users say they
spend less time shopping in stores, and 15 percent say they
spend less time in traffic since they gained Internet access."
Let's try to sum up matters.
The contention of the SIQSS report is that "social isolation
is up" because of the Internet.  My contention is that--if
used properly (using common sense)--the Internet can decrease
"social isolation."  It offers more opportunity for social
interaction involving the family than TV normally does, and it
enables us to keep in touch with friends and family who are
far away (and without all the expense of long distance phone
calls!).  The Internet also means we can often shop at home,
without having to contend with traffic and shopping malls.
And whenever the Internet saves us time, that is more time we
can spend with family and friends!
Whatever you think about its "social consequences," the
Internet is here to stay.  As Nie comments, "...we've come
to the point where if you are going to be part of the modern
economy or society, you have to be connected."  (Did he say
"connected"?  That doesn't sound like "isolation" to me!)
For more comments, check here:
"HTML Goodies Express" newsletter #74, April 3, 2000
Since I'll be saying something about our own experiences of
homeschooling as a family, before I go any further I should
probably begin with these two points:
First, our son, John Calvin, has had good experiences with
home school, private (Christian) school, and public school,
so this article in its concentration on home schooling should
not be taken to mean that alternative approaches may not be
beneficial.  It depends on the specific school and teachers
involved, for example, as well as many other circumstances.
For us personally, all three (home school, private school,
and public school) were positive and beneficial experiences.
Second, it should be understood that anything I say about my
son should NOT be taken as having his endorsement.  At best
I have his reluctant permission to include specific details,
and I have that permission as long as I make it known that
he has not had any part in deciding the specific content.
In particular he disassociates himself from any "bragging"
comments which he (perhaps rightfully) fears I might be
inclined to include (since he knows his Dad and how I have
embarrassed him in a similar way on other occasions).
Well, his Dad is proud of his son's accomplishments (am I
different from any other parent in that respect?), but the
reason I give in justification of even the "bragging" comments
is that I want to prove to the skeptics by specifics that 
home schooling does work and works well.  (Still, my son may
be right in his concern.  That may be "the reason I give,"
but it could still serve as a good excuse for some possibly
improper boasting.)
Having said that, what does it mean to "home school" (or to
"homeschool"--whether you use two words or one is a matter
of individual preference)?  To me, what it means is simply
"education outside of the classroom."  Thus from my point of
view, all parents "home school" (regardless of whether their
children are also being taught in a school classroom).
Most people, however, would define "home school" more in
this way:  "education outside of the classroom instead of in
the classroom."  That is, home schooling is generally taken
to mean not an addition to, but a replacement for, education
in the classroom of a public or private school.
Our son was "home schooled" for grades three through eight (in
addition to his attending a "Mentally Gifted" program one day
a week in the public school).  Thus for six years he was NOT
given regular classroom instruction in mathematics, science,
history, English, etc.  The two typical questions that people
asked us had to do with whether home schooled children will
be adequately prepared (1) academically and (2) socially.
Actually, the consensus of various research studies is that
home schooled children tend to do much better academically on
the average than their classroom-schooled counterparts.  And
there's certainly no evidence that John suffered academically
as a result of his learning at home for six years.  Rather,
the evidence points in the opposite direction:
Evidence #1:  For high school he attended a private Christian
school, Phil-Mont Christian Academy, Philadelphia.  It was a
good choice.  Was John prepared academically for PMCA?  Well,
John entered as a ninth grader, taking the normal ninth-grade
curriculum (except, thanks to the flexibility of PMCA, for
calculus, in which he earned a 99 average).  John had four
great years at Phil-Mont.  As a senior, he graduated as the
valedictorian of his class, winning various awards, including
the Board of Directors award "for outstanding scholarship,
character and purpose for being the senior who best represents
the ideals of Phil-Mont."  John was also a National Merit
Scholarship winner.
Evidence #2:  For college he chose to attend Covenant College,
Lookout Mountain, Georgia (although he was also impressed with
Geneva College, Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania and almost decided
to go there).  He was a Maclellan Scholar at Covenant College
and graduated summa cum laude this past spring with a double
major in English and philosophy and with a minor in Biblical
Studies.  He is currently a student in the M.A.R. program at
Westminster Seminary, Philadelphia, and hopes to go on for a
Ph.D. after that.
From this, you can see two things:  (1) John's being home
schooled for six years did not seem to hurt him academically,
and (2) John (who is very modest about his accomplishments)
had good reason to be concerned about possible embarrassment
from what his Dad might say in this newsletter. <grin>
Let's move on to the second of the two questions:  Are home
schooled children adequately prepared socially?  Here also
the various research studies have shown that home schooled
children tend to do better (on the average) than their
classroom-schooled counterparts, especially when it comes to
social interaction with people of a greater range of ages
(not surprising, since in a classroom a student usually has
contact only with people his or her own age, give or take a
year, a situation that can sometimes produce peer-group
dependency and even negative socialization).
How did John (who not only was home schooled but also is an
only child) do in high school and college?  Well, at PMCA he
was involved in cross country for four years, track for three
years, handbell choir for four years, and many other school
activities (including drama) and events (such as Junior/Senior
Prom).  He was elected representative of the senior class to
Student Council.  He made a number of close friends in high
In addition, in college John was similarly involved in social
activities.  For example, in drama he went on to play the role
of Rosencrantz in Tom Stoppard's Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Are Dead and the role of Bottom in William Shakespeare's A
Midsummer Night's Dream.  Perhaps most significant:  he has
kept in contact with his high school and college friends (John
gets more email than I do, and his is from friends, while I
get mostly "junk mail," although I do enjoy very much the
personal notes I get from CATI subscribers).
Well, I've embarrassed my son enough, but I hope it was to a
good purpose.  Our own experience fits in with the research
that indicates that home schooled children are definitely NOT
at a disadvantage in the areas of academics and socialization.
We believe that home schooling is a choice that many Christian
parents would do well to consider, depending on their specific
Many years ago I learned from Professor Paul Woolley at
Westminster Seminary that the ultimate responsibility for
educating a child does not belong to the state or to the
church, but to the family (see, for example, Proverbs 22:6
and Ephesians 6:4).  Even when parents decide to delegate the
responsibility to a school, private or public, that school is
acting "in loco parentis" ("in the place of a parent"), and
the ultimate responsibility remains with the parent.  For
many parents, home schooling is an excellent choice (and the
best choice of the options available to them).
Following are some interesting and useful Web sites related to
home schooling (some of which may also include some helpful
hints for parents who have their children in a private or a
public school but who want to add something to the education
their children are receiving in the classroom):
A to Z Home's Cool
About.com: Homeschooling
Christian Home Educators Electronic Convention (CHEEC)
"an online homeschool convention"
Christian Homeschool Forum on CIN (Christian Interactive
Christian Unschooling
Classical Christian Homeschooling
Cyndi's Homeschooling Page
Eclectic Homeschool Online
"[This site] promotes creative homeschooling through unique
resources, teaching methods and online helps. The Eclectic
Homeschool Online is published from a Christian worldview.
Articles and resources are not limited to purely Christian
material. We leave the decision in your hands as to what
material you choose to use and ideas you choose to incorporate
in your homeschooling."
Finding Homeschool Support on the Internet
Holt Associates: Questions and Answers About Homeschooling
This site continues the "Growing Without Schooling" tradition
set by American educator John Holt (1923-1985).
Home Crusaders Online Homeschool Site
Home Education Magazine
Home School Headlines
"[This site] is crammed full of vital, stimulating information
and encouragement for new and veteran homeschoolers alike.
Not only are we reporting national homeschool news, but we
also are covering practical, legal and philosophical issues
of importance to you....With advisors and columnists that
include Ruth Beechick, Cathy Duffy, Mary Hood (the Relaxed
Homeschooler) and The Rutherford Institute, HSH will report
the homeschool news, tackle controversial issues being debated
within our growing, diverse ranks...AND provide lots of
practical, rubber-meets-the-road information, resources,
tips and insights...."
Home School Legal Defense Association (Michael Farris)
Home Schooling Daily
"Featuring over 100 pages of more than 6,500 links."
Home's Cool
This site and A to Z Home's Cool are not affiliated with one
another.  They both apparently just like the "cool" pun.
Homeschool Central
Homeschool Channel (Mike Farris at Crosswalk.com)
Homeschool Find-It!
Homeschool Fun Online Magazine
Homeschool Information
Homeschool World (Mary Pride)
"The official site of Practical Homeschooling magazine and The
Big Book of Home Learning."
Homeschool Zone
Homeschooler's Curriculum Swap
Homeschooling Links ("NOW '500' current HomeSchooling Links!")
Homeschooling on a Shoestring
"The purpose of this page is to make available to the reader
ways of cutting costs while homeschooling. It is hoped that
the reader will be enabled to save money while maintaining a
high quality of education. Some homeschoolers love bargains,
others try to cut costs out of necessity. Regardless of why
you, the reader, are wanting to cut costs, our goal is to help
you do the best you can to save money." 
Homeschooling Today
Jon's Homeschool Resource Page
"[This site is] now nearly six years old, which makes it one
of the oldest homeschooling sites on the Web. With over two
hundred component pages (1.3 meg of HTML), it's one of the
largest homeschooling sites on the Web. But what I find
most gratifying is that it remains one of the most popular
homeschooling sites on the Web, with over a thousand incoming
links and hundreds of visitors a day." 
Moore Foundation
National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI)
The RI (The Ramblin' Irishman)
"This [site] is intended as a meeting place for Christian home
schooled teens on the Internet." 
The Teaching Home
"A Christian magazine for home education," The Teaching Home
"...Is Written for Home Schoolers by Home Schoolers."
Wisdom's Gate
"Homeschooling From A Biblical Worldview"
Wisdom's Gate: Home School Digest
Since my guess is that many CATI subscribers either home
school or know people who do, we may have additional articles
on home schooling in the future.  (If you'd like that, let
me hear from you!  Write to me at cati@traver.org .)  In the
meantime, enjoy exploring the many Web sites mentioned in this
Who uses the Web more:  men or women?  Since men are largely
regarded as technology buffs and women largely regarded as
more ignorant in such areas, the result of the latest survey
may surprise you:
"In a report released by Strategis, an online analyst company,
Internet growth can be measured mainly in women. By the end of
last year, the male-to-female ratio of people on the Web became
equal. Furthermore, women make up 60% of those who report they
go on the Web every day."
"HTML Goodies Express" newsletter #74, April 3, 2000
So it looks like popular perceptions of the situation are much
in error.  There IS sexual equality on the Web!  If anything,
it appears that there is evidence that women use the Web more
regularly than men.
Incidentally, even though CATI is intended for women as well
as men, at the present time most subscribers are men.  That's
largely a matter of "historical accident" (I'll explain that
in a moment), and I would like to see more women become part
of our CATI family (even though for now there's a "gender gap"
in CATI subscribers).
Here's how it happened.  Since CATI is a free newsletter, it
has no money, which means it has no advertising budget.  Since
the newsletter is devoted to "Christians and the Internet" and
since it is written from a Presbyterian/Reformed perspective
(although hopefully useful to others as well!), I advertised
CATI by sending out a sample copy to pastors of the OPC, PCA,
RPCNA, ARP, and RCUS (using email address I obtained from the
respective denominational Web pages).
By the way, for those who may be having some difficulty in
making sense of the preceding "alphabet soup," here's what the
acronyms stand for:  OPC--Orthodox Presbyterian Church, PCA--
Presbyterian Church in America, RPCNA--Reformed Presbyterian
Church of North America, ARP--Associate Reformed Presbyterian
Church, and RCUS--Reformed Church in the United States.
A fairly good number responded, so most of CATI's subscribers
right now are Presbyterian or Reformed ministers.  That also
means that most subscribers are men.  There was no intention
to discriminate against women:  it was simply that it was easy
to obtain a list of email addresses of potential subscribers
who happened to be men (and no list was easily available of
potential subscribers who happened to be women).  
I'm hoping that as time goes by we will see more women on the
CATI mailing list.  You can help in that by getting the news
out about CATI.  (That may be already starting to happen.  I
was very happy to see a mention of CATI in a recent well-done
newsletter sent to wives of pastors in the OPC.)
At any rate, women are apparently now using the Web as much as
men.  The closing of the gap between men and women continued
an established trend in that direction, observed earlier by
"Internet User Trends, a 1998 year-end survey by the
Washington-based Strategis Group shows that while only 16
percent of US adult females used the Internet in mid-1997,
compared to 37 percent of males, female usage mushroomed to
38 percent by the end of 1998, while that of males grew to
46 percent. 
  --BizReport, "Internet Gender Gap Narrows," June 7, 1999
Thus "females...narrowed the 'Internet gender gap' from 21
percent to only 8 percent in less than two years," and now
there is apparently no gender gap at all.
Incidentally, I do not personally subscribe to Internet User
Trends, even though it looks like an interesting report.  Why
don't I subscribe?  I think you can figure that out from the
following information from the Strategis Web site:
"Internet User Trends.  Semi-annual Subscription: $1,500
(one edition).  Annual Subscription: $2,500 (includes one
semi-annual update)."
Who uses the Web more:  men or women?  The answer at this
point suggests that--according to current usage--the general
public has learned that the Internet has as much to offer
women as it has to offer men (and I trust that CATI will
help both men and women get maximum benefit from the Web)!
Covenant United Reformed Church:  Links
Described by the RPCNA list of links as "an unusually thorough
list of Reformed links," this list contains references to many
Web sites you may not have come across before.
This is the second of the "two lists of links" I shared with
you in CATI, 1/13.  As in any list of links, some sites may be
more helpful than others, and inclusion in the list should not
be taken as full endorsement of a particular site.  CATI gives
you credit for being able to use your discretion as usual in
such areas.
Following are a few suggestions from that list:
Christian Connection's Christianity and Science
Here you'll find lots of links dealing with the subjection of
creation and evolution.
Layman Online (Presbyterian Layman)
"[This site] is the official web site of the Presbyterian Lay
Committee," a conservative organization associated with the
Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.
Phillip E. Johnson Page
Phillip Johnson is the author of Darwin on Trial, one of the
best modern critiques of Darwinian evolution.
Oops!  Out of room for this issue!
This is the fourteenth issue of a free newsletter devoted to
"Christians And The Internet" ("CATI," pronounced "Katy," 
but spelled with a "C" and an "I" for "Christians" and the 
Privacy policy:  The information in the "Christians And The 
Internet" mailing list will NOT be sold, rented, or given to
others.  (Let them make their own lists! <grin>)
Past issues:  you'll find archives of past issues of CATI
available online at http://traver.org/cati/ .  ("It's not a
pretty site," but hopefully it may be a useful one.)
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in this newsletter is
Copyright (C) 2000 by Barry Traver, All Rights Reserved.  For
permission to reproduce material from this newsletter, contact
Barry Traver at cati@traver.org.  Permission is hereby granted,
however, to pass along this issue to others, provided that (1)
no changes are made and (2) it is passed along in its entirety.

To subscribe, write to cati@traver.org, including "Subscribe to
CATI" in the Subject line and your real name and email address
to which you wish CATI sent in the body.  (To be removed from
 the emailing list, also write to cati@traver.org, but include
 "Remove from CATI List" in the Subject line.)