Wednesday, September 8, 2010


By Mark W. Danielson

LOL, I’ve forgotten how to write! Actually, since I don’t text, that isn’t the case, but it might be a problem for our kids. In fact, young people text so often that some believe SMS, the official abbreviation for Short Message Service or texting, may hinder their ability to communicate through normal dialogue. Technology has made it so kids no longer have to interact face-to-face. If this is true, then proper verbal and written communication may be in jeopardy. Nothing on the scale of our insecure borders or the threat of nuclear war, but I certainly hope our young people can shout something more alarming than OMG! should they spot a security flaw.

Communication is a skill that requires constant practice. Throw a person in solitary confinement and most will crave conversation within hours. In some cases, getting them to talk is the reason for locking them away. If you learn a second language but don’t have someone to communicate with, you will probably lose your proficiency in that language. Toss your personal computer out and you will lose you ability to transfer your thoughts onto a screen. Thankfully, those with well developed skills can quickly regain their proficiency if given the tools to do so, but this may prove difficult for our younger people if proper communication is not emphasized at home and in school. In this regard, bilingual schools may be creating more problems than they are solving.

It’s possible that a novel written in SMS could be printed in pamphlet size. For someone like me, that story would appear as code, but a proficient texter could probably read it in minutes. I’d like to think that words have more value than that, though. Besides, codes have limited life spans, whereas common languages are timeless.

Of course, there are other sides to this story, so I offer the following from a web site:
According to a study published by the British Academy entitled Is texting valuable or vandalism?, teachers and parents should embrace texting as a means of improving their children's phonological awareness. “Children who are heavy users of mobile phone text abbreviations such as LOL (laughing out loud), plz (please), l8ter (later) and xxx (kisses), are unlikely to be problem spellers and readers. The research, carried out on a sample of 8-12 year olds over an academic year, revealed that levels of “textism” use could even be used to predict reading ability and phonological awareness in each pupil by the end of the year. Moreover, the proportion of textisms used was observed to increase with age, from just 21% of Year 4 pupils to 47% in Year 6, revealing that more sophisticated literacy skills are needed for textism use. The study conclusions will come as a surprise to many who believe that textisms are vandalizing the English language.”

A variety of stories debate the effects of text messaging on student's writing skills. On the positive side, you have: RU Kidding - "txtspeak" Has No Impact on Children's Spelling Ability, Texting can b gd 4 ur kids, Texting teenagers are proving 'more literate than ever before'. Those against texting have: Technology marches ahead, grammar gets worse, Y TEXTING MAYBE BAD 4 U, SMS and Internet blamed for decline in English Examinations. Of course, the Department of Motor Vehicles has their own take, having seen a rapid increase in accidents from people texting while driving.

Whether you agree or disagree with texting, it is a form of communication that is likely to stay with us. Having said that, not everyone speaks SMS so be careful if you include it in your novels. CU L8tr.


Bill Kirton said...

Interesting stuff, Mark. As a traditionalist with a love of language, I find texting distortions irritating or frustrating and yet I have to accept that, when kids are texting, they are at least using words. Not so long ago, grunting was the norm. Another thing, at least when they're texting, they don't overuse 'like' the way they do in speech. And thank God there's no way that you can in corporate those horrible rising terminals in a text.
Yours truly,
Grumpy Old Man.
or, more probably:

Mark W. Danielson said...

Well said, Bill. I'm so ignorant in texting, I had to do a fair amount of research just to write this piece. I didn't notice GOM in there, but suspect it applies to me as well:) (AKA Grunting Older Man)

Beth Terrell said...

I've read that children's brains are being wired differently than they once were. The barrage of images from TV and computers wires the brain for shorter attention spans and a greater need for visual stimulation. Parents spend less time playing with and vocalizing with their children, so the children learn less about interpreting the emotions of others through facial expressions and vocal inflections. Are we growing a generation of poor listeners?

Oh well, the ancient Romans are said to have complained that you couldn't step out of your house without fear of being run over by some reckless young person in a chariot. (She sighs, feeling like an old fogey.)

Mark W. Danielson said...

Beth, you nailed when you said, "Parents spend less time playing with and vocalizing with their children." That is the real key -- not the addition of technology. It's apparent that parents have forgotten how to parent:(