Is Texting Ruining Kids' Spelling & Grammar? Actually, It's Improving It, So Keep LOLing
In a finding that defies all logic, a study has determined that texting might be making children better writers. That's right — not only is using "OMG" and "LOL" not bad for your children's grammatical development, it may actually be beneficial. Researchers are building upon an ever-increasing body of evidence that suggests that texting is not the end of literacy as we know it, and is rather a new, creative form of expression.
As reported by Vox, Nenagh Kemp of the University of Tasmania and Clare Wood of Coventry University have found absolutely no correlation between texting using shorthand language and decreased performance on grammar and spelling tests. Rather, the opposite was discovered to be true, though the results aren't robust or significant enough to convince English teachers to start letting their students write essays using "u" and "r" in place of real words. But even so, this study strongly suggests that our current perceptions of texting and shorthand are highly incorrect, and perhaps even backwards.
The Rise Of The Text Message
The popularity of texting is one that has skyrocketed in recent years, and has quickly become many people's primary form of communication. When texting was first introduced in the early '90s, it was slow to catch on, with an average American user sending only 0.4 texts per month. Five years later in 2000, the SMS — short message service — became slightly more widespread, with the average hitting 35 per month.
But it was the iPhone that truly revolutionized text messaging, and in 2007, texting surpassed phone calls as the primary form of communication for the first time in history. Last year, the information services company Experian estimated that the average young American between the ages of 18 and 24 sent an astounding 2,022 texts per month, which works out to about 67 texts every day.
Beneficial Effects For Literacy
How has this meteoric rise in text popularity affected reading and writing skills across the same period? Not all that much, researchers suggest. At least, not in the United States. Since 2008, European researchers have been closely studying the way in which young texters apply their language skills away from their phones. The first study, also co-authored by Clare Wood, examined 11 and 12 year olds in the UK.
Shockingly, the researchers found that the children who, used texting shorthand (like "ur"), incorrectly substituted words (like "to" for "too") or misused or did not use punctuation actually outscored students who used proper English on grammar and writing tests. Moreover, the same study found that students who used "textisms" also performed better on spelling tests than their normal spelling counterparts.
A couple years later, college students were thrown into the mix, and Nenagh Kemp found that of the 68 Australians she studied, those who were more able to translate proper English into shorthand and vice versa also had slightly stronger literacy abilities, as per standardized testing.
This latest study, a combined effort between Wood and Kemp, brings together children of varying ages as well as college students, and tracked their texting habits and their testing scores over the course of a year. Once again, the results were clear — those students who texted more with shorthand not only started off with stronger test scores, but also showed more improvement over the course of the year. Interestingly enough, the only group where this was not the case was for college students, so maybe we should be putting away our phones during lectures after all.
New, Creative Language
The reasoning behind these results has often been attributed to the creativity that must be used in order to translate proper grammar and proper English into what is effectively an entirely different language. Linguists and other researchers have also pointed out that abbreviations, the heart of texting shorthand, have been used for centuries, even millennia, and by people around the world. From the ancient Egyptians to Shakespeare, every great civilization has had its fair share of unconventional forms of communication.
Of course, while texting might not make you dumber, it certainly has other very serious associated dangers. Texting while driving, texting while walking, and just texting a lot in general has been found to have very serious side effects. Last year, texting surpassed alcohol as the leading cause of death for young drivers, and while videos of people walking into pools while typing away on their phones are somewhat amusing, they can also have deadly consequences. Moreover, the United Chiropractic Association (UCA) reported earlier this year that bad posture, namely dropping our heads and leaning forward, like we do when we're texting, is linked to pulmonary disease and cardiovascular problems.
So ultimately, while we can cross off "decreased literacy" from the list of texting cons, there are still plenty more to fill that gap.
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