Texting Affects Student Writing: R U Concerned?

Posted in The Gnovis Blog

"There is a raging national debate about the state of writing and how
high-tech communication by teens might be affecting their ability to
think and write…. Those on both sides of the issue will see supporting data

According to the latest report from Pew Internet and American Life Project, Writing, Technology and Teens (new window), (new window) the vast amount of text based communications used by our youngest scholars is unsurprisingly, manifesting in more formal sorts of writing. The study was prompted in large part, due to growing concerns over how text-based electronic communications affect the writing ability of students emersed in electronic media.

Out of 700 youth aged 12-17 who participated in the phone survey, 60% say they don’t consider electronic communications (email, IM, mobile text) to be writing in the formal sense. 63% say it has no impact on the writing they do for
school, or themselves. 64% report inadvertently using some form of short hand common to electronic text, including emoticons, incorrect grammar or punctuation. The study also shows– as we all are certainly aware– that the internet benefits students in many aspects of learning, such as performing online research.

Part of the study includes focus groups exploring what inspires kids to write, in the hopes of extending the level of enthusiasm kids demonstrate for writing in online fora, to academic writing. Notably, the students indicate appreciating the freedom to choose topics they feel are relevant to their own lives, as well as the awareness of having an audience.

Beyond perhaps understandable alarm over potentially negative effects on writing, the results might have interesting sociological implications. Other reports include studies on teen use of social media, parent
involvement in childrens’ online use, cyberbullying, and online
stranger contact.

Below you will find information contained in the press release (new window), which is much shorter than the full report for those of us writing finals.


57% of teens say they revise and edit more when they write using a computer. 63% of teens say using computers to write makes no difference in the quality of the writing they produce. 64% of teens admit that they incorporate, often accidentally,
at least some informal writing styles used in personal electronic
communication into their writing for school. (Some 25% have used
emoticons in their school writing; 50% have used informal punctuation
and grammar; 38% have used text shortcuts such as "LOL" meaning "laugh
out loud".

This survey finds that, apart from their text-based electronic
communications, teens write with some frequency inside and outside of
the school environment. All teens do at least some writing for school,
and 93% write for themselves outside of school at least on occasion

Writing is a common activity within the school environment, as 50% of
teens say that they write something for school every day. However, most
writing assignments are short: 82% of teens say their typical writing
assignment is a paragraph to one page in length.