Cell phones help kids' writing, at least if they're writing in Canadian

The explosion of cell-phone text-messaging, especially among young people, has ignited a debate about what the practice means to the skill of writing.

University of Toronto researchers say it's time to chill the worries. Derek Denis and Sali Tagliamonte studied instant messages and spoken communication of 72 people between the ages of 15 and 20 and found messaging actually helped communication enough to label it "an expansive new linguistic renaissance." The study group, reports the Cleveland Plain Dealer, possessed a good command of language, whether they were speaking, texting, or writing a formal paper.

Whoa, not a bit of it, says author and teacher Jacquie Ream. "We have a whole generation being raised without communications skills," said Ream, according to Plain Dealer reporter Scott Stephens (see here). "Kids are typing shorthand jargon that isn't even a complete thought."

Ream, of Seattle, believes that the shorthand and clichés of text-messaging and the Internet destroy the way youngsters read, think, write, and spell. As evidence, she pointed to a current National Center for Education Statistics study that suggested only one in four high school seniors is a proficient writer.

Who knows what to believe? There is, at least, this to consider. We began worrying about the communications skills of our children long before cell phones and the Internet were invented.

If you have an opinion for The Ohio Education Gadfly, contact Editor Mike Lafferty at mlafferty@edexcellence.net. Letters may be edited for content and clarity.

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