By Margarita Nahapetyan
It turns out that text messaging positively affects a child's literacy and, in fact may even improve it, according to a new study conducted by a Coventry University in Britain.
The University researchers involved a group of 88 children between the ages of 10 and 12, for their study. Their goal was to figure out what are the effects of text messaging on children's communication skills. All the kids were given 10 different scenarios and were asked to write text messages about them, describing each situation.
The textisms were divided into categories such as shortenings, contractions, symbols, acronyms, and non-conventional spellings, and examined for the use of the language in comparison with the school performance. When the researchers compared later the number of text messages being used, with a different research that focused on the reading ability of children, they discovered that those kids who used more textisms turned out to be much better readers. The follow-up study and its preliminary results revealed that textism rather improved literacy than had a harmful effect.
The alarming warnings in the media are based on selected anecdotes but in fact when analyzing the examples of text speak in essays experts were not able to find many of them, according to the researchers. In opposite, students appeared to completely understand when they were making contractions and taking the shortcuts, that are very common in text conversations. In addition, when asked to write something in a serious way, the kids were able to put those textisms aside. The kids are actually taking the whole language to a new level, even if critics do not agree with it and say that it is not the right one.
Basically, every expression and intonation that are being used during normal conversation, has to be inserted in a text message, however in most cases young people who send SMS-s on a regular basis, have no time to do so. Instead, they start using abbreviations, which allow them to write even the most complex and long phrases and expressions with only a few letters or words. One way to achieve this is just removing all the vowels from a word, leaving only consonants. With practice, words that at a first glance seem like a mess, and message with no sense, can actually turn out to be quite simple to understand.
The experts also wrote that the association between text messaging and phonological awareness has been found during their study. Dr. Beverly Plester and her colleagues at the Coventry University believe that when the kids are exposed to the text that is based mostly on phonetics, they are better improving their literary skills. According to the researchers phonological awareness has been associated with good reading skills for a long time. This way kids are using more written language and it is a great fun for them.
The experts acknowledge the fact that in any case no final conclusions can be yet made, and say that their study does not claim that text messaging plays a major role in children's ability of word reading. However, they say that the experience and skill can contribute to the "prediction" of their word reading ability, and that messaging skills deserve additional study.
In the conclusion, the researchers added that no link so far was found between the use of text conversations and the spelling abilities of all the study participants. "This suggests that, as anticipated, at this stage of development there is no evidence of a detrimental effect of textisms exposure on conventional spelling," they stated in their report. And no matter what is the case, it is becoming more of an accepted fact that texting is neither hurting children, nor it makes them any dumber, or kills the English language.
The results of the study are published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.