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Texting VS Writing: The Problem with Instant Messaging

Young teenage girls texting

Q: When is talking on your phone not talking? When it’s texting!

At the ripe old age of 25 I thought myself to be fairly au courant — that my online skills weren’t at all lacking, or needing of improvement. That is until I added my 13-year-old cousin to my messenger service. Every time I chatted with her online I revealed just how much of a dud I was, and continually had to ask her what acronyms like ROTFL meant (rolling on the floor laughing). Not to mention BRB, GTG, LOL TTYL-see side panel.

IM Lingo

  • GTG— got to go
  • BRB— be right back
  • BBL— be back later
  • L8R— later
  • LOL— laughing out loud
  • NP— no problem
  • TTYL— talk to you later
  • TTFN— ta ta for now
  • ROFLOL— rolling on floor, laughing out loud
  • OTP— on the phone
  • JK— just kidding
  • IMHO— in my humble opinion
  • IMNSHO— in my not so humble opinion

This kid is only thirteen — how could she possibly be cooler than me? Where is she learning how to do all this stuff? Turns out, my cousin isn’t the tech-wizard trailblazer that I originally thought. In fact, instant messaging is THE hottest communication method for the younger generations — almost any electronic device can be used to “text” a message to one’s peeps (or people). Don’t believe it? Turn on MTV or Much Music during one of the live request shows and watch as the side panels scroll along with what looks like the alphabet on crack. These kids know IM’ing — it’s among their top social communication method.

Some kids have cell phones by the time they are in first grade. Before they can even spell, they can text their friends: WRU? [where are you?] or CUS [see you soon].

Call me old-fashioned, but I find this a little concerning.

Don’t get me wrong, instant messaging is a great tool for social communication, but it can cause some serious issues the classroom, especially if your child is just developing writing/spelling/vocabulary skills. During the early education years, texting could be detrimental to proper language development. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • Spelling — vocabulary is key skill in early education. The first grades are all about vocabulary lists, and spelling tests, not to mention sentence writing. Spelling can take a hit when kids, during this critical learning time, use short forms before they know the whole word, let alone how to spell it.
  • Grammar — A big part of grammar is punctuation. It takes years to learn how to properly use it, and even then punctuation can be a landmine for mistakes. Online messaging has practically no punctuation, and is basically a grammar free-for-all.
  • Complete Thoughts — another key skills that IM has a blatant disregard for is that of the complete, cohesive thought. The major challenge in writing is to be able to express an argument clearly as a complete thought: with a beginning, a middle and an end. One word sentences that are prevalent in IM don’t help to develop the complete thought skill – they detract from it.
  • Homework — it’s hard enough to stay focused on homework without being distracted by the chiming alerts of a messaging system every few seconds. If your child struggles to complete his homework, be sure that he signs out of IM before he begins so that he can dedicate some uninterrupted time to focus on the task at hand: homework.

IM isn’t all bad — I’ve been known to partake on occasion, when I just don’t feel like talking. But then, I already have a firm grasp of our language and how it’s used. Once kids develop strong language skills, then they can start learning all the variations, like IM — after all, it’s a great social tool for staying in touch with friends — but it needs to be kept distinctly separate from proper language development.

So maybe my young cousin taught me a few things about IM (okay, she taught me everything I know) but when it comes time for her first university essay, I’m sure that I could show her a few things.

WDYT? [what do you think?]

In future articles, we’ll talk about keeping an eye on IM chats (read monitoring), IM bullying and keeping your child’s online profile free of personal information.

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