Page last updated at 12:17 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Texting 'improves language skill'

Mobile phone screen with message
Text messaging may help language development

Text speak, rather than harming literacy, could have a positive effect on the way children interact with language, says a study.

Researchers from Coventry University studied 88 children aged between 10 and 12 to understand the impact of text messaging on their language skills.

They found that the use of so-called "textisms" could be having a positive impact on reading development.

The study is published in the British Journal of Developmental Psychology.

"Children's use of textisms is not only positively associated with word reading ability, but it may be contributing to reading development ," the authors wrote in the report.

The children involved in the study were given 10 different scenarios and asked to write about them using text messages.

The textisms were split into categories, including shortenings, contractions, acronyms, symbols and non-conventional spellings, and analysed for their use of language alongside more traditional schoolwork.

Misspellings

"The alarm in the media is based on selected anecdotes but actually when we look for examples of text speak in essays we don't seem to find very many," said Dr Beverley Plester, the lead author of the report and senior lecturer at Coventry University.

Texting is likely to be an important part of a child's learning development, she thinks.

"The more exposure you have to the written word the more literate you become and we tend to get better at things that we do for fun," she said.

The study found no evidence of a detrimental effect of text speak on conventional spelling.

"What we think of as misspellings, don't really break the rules of language and children have a sophisticated understanding of the appropriate use of words," she said.

Other reports have produced similar results. Research from the University of Toronto into how teenagers use instant messaging found that instant messaging had a positive effect on their command of language.



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