Can Txt Msgs Really Help Kidz 2 Spell?

Studies show texting boosts kids' spelling skills.

ByABC News
January 31, 2011, 5:58 AM

Jan. 31, 2011 -- OMG but TXTs help me spel L8R

For many teachers and parents, those text abbreviations may spell the end of literacy as we know it, but a growing body of research indicates that text messages can actually help students' ability to spell.

It may seem counterintuitive to those who wonder how hours spent slinging digital slang can't help but translate into "lol"-peppered formal correspondence. But language experts say that no matter how dumbed down the techno shorthand looks, the wordplay has a positive impact on students' spelling smarts.

"Sometimes, there's an assumption that kids are more stupid than they actually are, to be quite blunt, and it's just not the case," said Clare Wood, a senior lecturer in the psychology department at Coventry University in the U.K. "Their use of the texting abbreviations everyone gets so worried about, they're not hurting your kids' literacy development. They actually seem to be helping it."

In a study to be published next month in the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Wood and her colleagues recruited 114 students aged 9-10 who had never owned a cell phone.

They gave half of the students cell phones to use on the weekends and holidays and, during 10 weeks, the researchers tested students in both groups on reading, spelling and phonological skills.

The researchers found no difference between how students in the two groups performed.

"There was absolutely no sign that it was problematic," said Wood.

She said it's likely that this study was too short for the benefits of texting to be apparent, but added that another longer-term study to be published later this year in the British Journal of Psychology showed that texting significantly boosted the growth of literacy skills.

The study included 119 students aged 8-12 who use cell phones, and looked at the relationship between their texting habits and performance on reading, spelling and phonological skills tests.

The researchers tested students at the beginning of the academic year, analyzed a sample of their text messages and then tested students again at the end of the academic year.