LOL: Texting and Literacy in Today’s “Generation Text”

by Barbara J. Feldman on February 4, 2010

Texting has become so popular that many have taken to calling today’s teens “generation text” With the proliferation of technology you realize how important it is to explore the effect of cell phone texting on learner literacy.

Texting refers to the use of abbreviations and other techniques to craft messages sent through the cell phone. This form of writing known as “Txtspk” does not follow standard grammar or spelling conventions. It is popular because of the wide use of cell phones and instant messaging (IM). In some developed countries there are several million texts that are sent daily.

For many years educators and parents have blamed texting for two ills: the corruption of language and a degradation in spelling. Teachers are even complaining about textisms creeping into schoolwork. This has led many to wonder if it is possible that texting can have any positive influence on learners’ language development.

Before you write off texting as a corruption of this generation it is important to realize that many studies have found that teens through their texting, blogging and emailing are reading and writing more than any other generation. The bottom line is that texting is not going to go away; so it has become crucial to explore the opportunities for cell phone-assisted literacy development, as well as understand the risks. More research will have to be done to consider the full impact of texting and literacy.

A recent study explored the relationship in 10- to 12-year-old children between the use of textisms and school literacy attainment. The researchers found no association between overall textism use and the children’s spelling scores. However there was a strong association between textism use and phonological awareness (for example, “2nite” sounds the same as “tonight”). This is because although spelled incorrectly in a conventional sense, many textisms are phonologically acceptable forms of written English. There are decades of research that have demonstrated a consistent association between different forms of phonological awareness and reading attainment.

Further research supports that sending frequent texts can actually help children to read and write because of the abbreviations that are used. Text style requires learners to write economically, inventively and playfully which are all good practice when learning to read and write. Some English teachers have even gone as far as to ban cell phones and texting believing there is a place for texting in the classroom. Below are some examples that teachers are using to incorporate texting into their teaching and classrooms-

  • Teachers are having students translate text-heavy pieces, (for example a MySpace page), into Standard English. Or they are doing the reverse by having students translate passages from classic literature into text speak.
  • One English teacher has asked her students to summarize in the form of text passages from Richard III to demonstrate succinctly their comprehension of the material.
  • Teachers are using text as a means to communicate with their students. This allows teachers to discuss content with their students in the formal writing assignments. Because learners are communicating through so many channels these days, there is a need to educate them about writing for a particular audience: school writing is different to casual chat.
  • When writing first drafts some educators are allowing the quick, free-flowing style of texting to spark their learners’ thinking processes. The students will then switch to standard language during editing and revising.
  • Texting is crossing over into math and applied sciences as well as teachers in those areas use formal math problems based on the send rate and receive rate of texts. This type of creative problem solving appeals to today’s heavy digital technology generation of teens.

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Cite This Page

Feldman, Barbara. "LOL: Texting and Literacy in Today’s “Generation Text”." Surfnetkids. Feldman Publishing. 4 Feb. 2010. Web. 17 Jul. 2014. <http://www.surfnetkids.com/tech/1480/lol-texting-and-literacy-in-todays-generation-text/ >.


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  • Helen

    Well done to the teachers embracing the future our children will grow up in. It’s worth remembering that, in the time of Austen, novels were condemned for distracting readers from more valuable material.