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Last Updated: Friday, 8 September 2006, 15:57 GMT 16:57 UK
Texts 'do not hinder literacy'
Texting is very popular among young people
Pupils who send regular text messages may not be at risk of becoming poor readers and writers, researchers say.

A Coventry University study of 35 11-year-olds found those who texted frequently also scored highly in school tests and in standard spelling tests.

The report may ease parents' concerns that texting might damage children's ability to use correct English.

The research also found children used their mobile phones more for sending messages than for talking.

Most of the children surveyed used phonetically based texts, such as "wot" for what.

But "rebus" types of abbreviation, such as CUL8r, were also popular.

There was also use of casual language, or youth code, such as "wanna" and "dat fing".

Translating texts

As part of the research, the children were asked questions about their texting habits.

They were put through standard spelling tests and their national curriculum reading and writing tests were assessed.

There is no evidence to link text messaging among children to a poorer ability in standard English
Beverly Plester, Coventry University

The 11-year-olds were also asked to translate passages of text language into standard English and vice versa.

The researchers found those who texted frequently were also identified as strong readers and writers.

"People have been alarmed about it [texting] because there have been anecdotes about pupils putting text abbreviations in their GCSE exams, for example," said researcher Beverly Plester.

"The conclusion has been that this technology is ruining their language, but nobody has any data.

"So far, our research has suggested that there is no evidence to link text messaging among children to a poorer ability in standard English.

"Those children who were the best at using "textisms" were also found to be the better spellers and writers," she said.

Weaker pupils

But Mrs Plester said the research had thrown up many questions, not least whether texting hindered pupils who were struggling in their grasp of standard English.

She hopes to interview more pupils this coming term to focus more on children who were not considered strong readers or writers.

"Using text abbreviations is not damaging fairly competent spellers and writers, but we don't know yet about those who are struggling, those who have less ability with English."

Mrs Plester said: "Texting could be used positively to increase phonetic awareness in less able children and perhaps increase their language skills in a fun yet educational way."

The research was presented at the annual conference of the British Psychological Society's developmental section.

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