Texting (Probably) Won’t Make Your Kid Dumb

Teens know when and why to write well

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Nothing makes parents and educators more concerned about the youth than the youth’s embracing attitude of new technology; when I was a kid video games were rotting our minds, and these days it’s, well, everything. A new survey from Pew Internet says, as usual, grownups may be overreacting.

All that texting, all that abbreviated nonsense you see in cell phone commercials where it seems like teenage girls are speaking an entirely different language, all that damnable leet and those emoticons—teenagers say they’re well aware of the difference between electronic communication and formal writing and adjust accordingly.

Think of it this way: I speak differently when visiting my hometown than I do in Lexington, Ky. Maybe you alter your patterns, too.

Most teens (60%), according to Pew, don’t think of electronic communications as "writing," which should be a relief to the purists and pessimists out there worried that their children’s surest chance for success – good writing skills – is taking a backseat to a memetic and potentially short-lived subculture pidgin language.

Pew described teens’ approach to technology and writing as "utilitarian," using both computers and longhand depending on the circumstances. Computers or text-based communication is often preferred, as one might imagine, because of the ease of editing.

Sometimes a teen’s reality is duplicitous, though. Many didn’t think texting and such influenced their formal writing, but did have to admit sometimes their informal styles crept into their formal schoolwork. Although 73% said e-communications had no impact on school writing, just under two-thirds admitted they improvised sometimes by using emoticons (25%), informal punctuation and grammar (50%), and abbreviations like LOL (38%).

This grad school student has to admit he’s made a winky-face in an essay before—but I told’em from the start there was nothin’ traditional about me.

The good news is that more teens than parents believe good writing is essential to their success. Eight in ten parents think so, but 86% of teens do. Maybe a few parents need a talkin-to instead. 

Texting (Probably) Won’t Make Your Kid Dumb
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