Have u evr snt a msg like this 2 ur frnd? If you own a Smartphone or have ever sent a message via Twitter, then odds are, the answer is “yes.” So, if we grown-ups slaughter the English language on a regular basis and still retain the capacity to speak and write in an articulate way, then it’s OK for the kiddos too, right? Well, not so fast.
A recent study in New Media and Society revealed that students who frequently text perform poorly on assessments of basic grammar skills such as the proper use of punctuation, apostrophes, and capitalization—elements of writing that are virtually nonexistent in the world of texting and tweeting.
Not all researchers agree that texting is detrimental to a kid’s communication skills, though. In fact, a similar study performed in the UK found no correlation between a child’s texting habits and his or her grammar abilities. Other linguists perceive the tech speak phenomenon as a natural progression of our ever-changing language and see no harm at all in kids experimenting with new ways to communicate with each other. This comprehensive infographic on the whole texting debate even seems to suggest that texting could be helping the English language.
Now for my semi-professional opinion. I’m not a linguist, and I’ve certainly not conducted any formal studies on the issue. Heck, my 13-year old has never sent a single text (shocking, I know), but I am an English teacher, so I think that puts me in a position to weigh in. Here goes:
No matter which study you choose to believe, it’s clear that students need to know the difference between a tech-speak-friendly scenario and one that requires more formal language including the proper use of grammar and spelling. Awareness of one’s audience is already a key element of writing instruction, so including a “no tech speak” clause in any given assignment certainly isn’t a stretch.
The key is knowing the difference between correct grammar and the truncated variety often seen in text messages. As long as your child has a strong foundation in grammar and spelling and applies these skills in school and at home, then switching to another form of communication when texting isn’t, in my opinion, going to result in a loss of skills. There may be millions of other reasons you should limit your child’s texting behavior, but from my perspective, this isn’t one of them.
One final disclaimer though, if I may. Since younger children may not have received the necessary grammar and spelling instruction/practice necessary to become proficient, it’s best to save the texting for later. Otherwise, they may find it harder to determine which spelling variation is the correct one.
Where are you on the texting issue? Do your kids text, and if so, have you noticed a difference in their performance in English class? Share your experiences below.