Can Txt Msgs Really Help Kidz 2 Spell?


Texting Exposes Kids to Language, Encourages Word Play

"It's exposure to language. It's playing with language," said Varnhagen. "It doesn't hurt them."

Kids have always been exposed to their own spelling mistakes, she said, and that never hindered their ability to ultimately spell correctly.

And, just as kids know to speak to their grandparents differently than they speak to their peers, they know when to use so-called textspeak and when to use conventional language, she said.

"We're able to distinguish when we need to use what type of language," Varnhagen said. "It's all part of learning when to say what -- how to use what communication style."

School administers and parents may argue that texting isn't good for students' learning but, she said, tech-savvy kids are learning to communicate in more ways than kids without the same access to technology.

More time texting means more time spent engaging in language play, which correlates with fluency, she said.

But if the studies continue to favor the impact of texting on kids' skills development, then why does texting continue to get a bad rap?

New Forms of Media Historically Face Push Back

Though research on the subject is still emerging, experts say that part of the perception problem may just have to do with the dynamics of change.

"Basically what you have is a small line of research showing that texting helps people read and helps them write, both, and then you have a lot of anecdotes and anxiety," said Kathleen Blake Yancey, the Kellogg W. Hunt professor of English at Florida State University. "That's basically it."

She said she's read reports of classroom teachers who see textspeak slipping into students' formal written work. But, while she doesn't doubt that it's there, she said the research doesn't support it and at the college level, they don't see it at all.

A recent study from the Pew Research Center found that students perceive a "firewall" between their texting and their formal writing, Yancey said.

What they do in school is "writing," but the texting, Facebooking and blogging they do on their own time is "communication," the study said.

"As long as students see that divide, you have a smaller likelihood of texting infiltrating school assignments," she said.

And as for those who continue to worry about the rise of texting and technospeak? New forms of communication have always received some push back, Yancey said.

Even when postcards took off in the early 1900s, critics bemoaned the perceived effects of postcards on traditional letter writing, she said.

"Every time there's some change, a kind of nostalgia kicks in. And sometimes the nostalgia laments what's going to be lost and sometimes the nostalgia takes a critical view of the new," she said. "And I think that's part of the process of making change."

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