Texting could lead to a decline in language skills, warns a new study that found tweens who text are more likely to fall short on grammar tests.
Many tweens take shortcuts or use so-called techspeak when sending text messages. “They may use a homophone, such as gr8 for great, or an initial, like, LOL for laugh out loud,” Northwestern researcher Drew Cingel explained in a statement. Other shortcuts include dropping non-essential letters, such as changing the word “would” to “wud.”
To study the effect of these habits, Cingel gave a group of middle school students in central Pennsylvania a grammar assessment test. The students were then given a survey that asked them to detail how many texts they send and receive, their opinions on the importance of texting and the number of shortcuts in their last three sent and received text messages.
The results of the survey and the test, which were reported in the journal New Media & Society, showed a link between poor grammar scores and frequent texting. What’s more, both sending and receiving techspeak-riddled texts seemed to affect how poorly the students performed on the test. This suggests tweens might not be initiating all of their bad language habits, but might also be influenced by the grammatically incorrect messages sent by their friends and family.
“In other words, if you send your kid a lot of texts with word adaptations, then he or she will probably imitate it,” said S. Shyam Sundar, a Penn State communications professor who worked with Cingel. “These adaptations could affect their offline language skills that are important to language development and grammar skills, as well.”
In addition to a natural desire to imitate friends and family, the researchers speculated that some texting tweens made poor grammar choices in more formal writing because they had trouble switching between techspeak and the normal rules of grammar.