It flies in the face of all common sense, but apparently texting is actually good for kids’ spelling.
A study funded by the British Academy found that children who are heavy users of mobile phone text abbreviations such as LOL, plz and l8ter are unlikely to be problem spellers and readers.
Further, say the researchers, high levels of ‘textism’ use actually indicate higher reading ability and phonological awareness in 8-12-year-olds.
The proportion of textisms used was found to rise with age, from just 21 percent of Year 4 pupils to 47 percent in Year 6.
The researchers conclude from this that more sophisticated literacy skills are needed for textism use – although another interpretation might be that they’ve just learned more rubbish from their friends as they’ve got older.
The team reckons it’s all linked to so-called phonological awareness – a child’s ability to detect, isolate and manipulate patterns of sound in speech.
For example, children who can tell which words rhyme, or what word is left if you remove a letter, have particularly high levels of phonological awareness.
“We began studying in this area initially to see if there was any evidence of association between text abbreviation use and literacy skills at all,” said Dr Clare Wood, Reader in Developmental Psychology at Coventry University.
“We were surprised to learn that not only was the association strong, but that textism use was actually driving the development of phonological awareness and reading skill in children. Texting also appears to be a valuable form of contact with written English for many children, which enables them to practice reading and spelling on a daily basis.”
In other words, children are so illiterate these days that txtspk is the only written English they ever see.