Is texting bad for kids’ communications skills?
OMG! Can u BLV it? Txting ur BFF during class is bad 4 u!
If you have a teen or preteen in your household, you probably know that kids spend a lot of time texting. In fact, a Pew Research Center study in April 2010 found that half of teens who text send at least 50 texts per day, and one-third send more than 100 texts a day. But how does all that texting affect their overall communication skills?
Mark Fontaine, EdD, a Rhode Island-based high school teacher and graduate of the University of Phoenix doctoral program in educational leadership, sees the texting phenomenon firsthand among his students.
Freshmen often enter his high school science classroom with “textisms” such as “LOL!” “OMG” and “B4” dotting their written and verbal communication.
I’ve been teaching for 18 years, and I’ve always had to teach students the importance of using good, formal writing and speaking skills instead of informal street language.
There’s no way to stop it, he says, because it’s a “part of who these students are.” But, with the right interventions, he believes students can learn to use more formal communication. “My students must submit extensive written reports with their science projects, and I use these reports to help them develop their formal written language skills,” he says.
He also coaches his students on using proper language and speech patterns for oral presentations in class and at science competitions. “Many students have approached me privately for extra help improving their language skills,” he notes. “As a result, I see a huge difference between my ninth-graders and 12th-graders in terms of using formal language.”
He thinks texting is just another form of slang, a new version of an old problem, noting, “I’ve been teaching for 18 years, and I’ve always had to teach students the importance of using good, formal writing and speaking skills instead of informal street language.”
School officials have also come up with a way to curtail texting: Students with itchy texting fingers have to wait until lunch.
“My high school bans all in-school texting except during the lunch hour,” Fontaine explains. “So the students spend their entire lunch break texting each other across the lunch table instead of talking.”
Bonnie Ellis, PhD, a public-speaking coach and director of academic affairs for the University of Phoenix Detroit Campus, agrees that her younger students “text people sitting right next to them instead of talking face to face.” Some students in her communication course have even turned in papers they wrote on their cellphones.
Ellis says one way to cut the amount of texting is to encourage mentoring relationships between texting teens and their older peers. “[People] in their 30s, 40s and older tend to be better at face-to-face communication [and formal writing], while the younger [people] are very tech- and text-heavy.” They can learn from one another, she asserts.
Prying teens’ fingers off the keypad can be daunting, Ellis acknowledges, but it must be done: “Face-to-face communication is essential in the work world.”