As a parent of tweens, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn “text speak.” I’ve got the LOL down. BRB took me a few minutes, but I figured it out. But what about NVM (Nevermind), SMH (Shaking my head) and IKR (I know, right)? Thanks to text abbreviations, my kids can condense entire sentences into a handful of letters.

Texting does give kids (and adults) a quick and easy way to communicate, but is there a cost for all of these shortcuts?

According to researchers at Penn State University, frequent texting during the school age years can lead to declining language and grammar skills.

In a study published in the journal New Media & Society, researchers gave middle school students a grammar assessment test based on the concepts they were taught during the school year. They collected information about students’ texting habits, including how often they send and receive texts. They also asked students to note how many adaptations (i.e., text-speak shortcuts) they made in their last three text messages.

Researchers found that abbreviated text-speak may have a significant impact on more formal communication. In this study, frequent texting shortcuts were associated with how poorly students performed on a grammar test.

Of course, in our high-tech world, texting and other forms of quick communication are here to stay. And that’s not all bad. Texting does give our kids (and us) a quick and easy means of expression. After all, BRB is a lot more efficient then typing, “I will be right back.”

Of course, our goal as parents isn’t to try and eliminate texting short-hand altogether! Instead, there are things we can do to support our children’s language and writing skills as they grow.  

Here’s how:

–Set an example. When you text your kids, take a few extra minutes to communicate in complete sentences from time to time. There is research to suggest that tweens have a natural desire to imitate friends and family. So take advantage of this opportunity to be a role model in the grammar department.

–Grab a book. One of the best ways to promote good grammar and strong language development is to read. Encourage your child to visit the local bookstore or library and choose a few interesting books. Yes, your kids are inundated with reading assignments in school. However, you can send the important message that recreational reading is fun and worthwhile. 

–Spend time together. It’s true that tweens prefer the company of friends, but they still value you and your time. Enjoy a family meal, walk the dog together, or turn off the radio and your cell phone while you’re in the car so you can have meaningful conversations that can’t be abbreviated!

About the Author

Debbie Glasser, Ph.D.

Debbie Glasser, Ph.D. is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, and speaker specializing in parenting and child development.

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