Thesis statement: In this paper, I will discuss how the frequent use of text messaging by teens today negatively affects literacy and I will offer suggestions that parents and teachers can implement and teach in order to raise reading, writing, and vocabulary skills. Since the technological phenomenon towards the end of the 20th century, text messaging has been widely used by cellphone users, specifically teenagers, in order to get their conversations across easier and quicker in a very convenient way.
In the modern technology world, people have become so accustomed to the idea of sending and receiving information almost instantly. Texting, or SMS, as it is occasionally referred to today, allows individuals to express their thoughts, convey information, and maintain relationships just with the tips of their fingers. The invention and subsequent use of the text message has redefined the way in which an entire generation communicates with each other. Though this powerful service has many benefits, it has also created several important negative issues as well. The cost to one’s health as well as the general public has made texting a highly debated topic recently.
The choices of the individuals engaged in texting one another are not always limited to themselves, rather their choices can have direct effects, both physically and emotionally, on others. The power of text messaging is one that has reshaped the world’s means of communication and those that use this power have a responsibility to use it correctly. The texting phenomenon dates back to end of the 20th century. Though accounts vary, it is generally accepted that the first text message was sent either during 1989 or 1992. The first account attributes the first text message as a sequence of numbers sent and read upside down through a Motorola beeper by former NASA employee Edward Lantz.
The 1992 account states that Neil Papworth sent a message through a Vodafone GSM network with the use of a desktop computer. This text message contained the simple statement “Merry Christmas.” It wasn’t until Riku Pihkonen, an engineering student, came around that texts were sent on the more commercially recognizable Nokia mobile phones. As this concept was first used in the early 90’s, the popularity of the text message did not initially catch on with the general public. The number of text users began to grow at the turn of the century, and now statistics show that over 85% of people in Europe and North America are users of text messaging (Urmann, 2009).
There is a long and noble history of trying to change the English language’s notoriously illogical system of spelling. The fact that through, rough, dough, plough, hiccough and trough all end with -ough, yet none of them sound the same as any of the others, is the sort of thing that has been vexing poets and learners of English for quite some time. Proponents of ”fixing” this wayward orthography have included some of the most prominent names in American history. Benjamin Franklin suggested changing the alphabet, and Andrew Carnegie provided money for people to study the problem.
President Theodore Roosevelt issued an edict in 1906 that gave the Government Printing Office a list of 300 words with new spellings: problem cases like artisan, kissed and woe were to be changed to artizan, kist and wo. Roosevelt was largely ignored by the G.P.O., and the matter was soon dropped. Although this issue has been extensively studied and argued over by these and other eminent thinkers, there has been an almost complete lack of success in effecting any substantial progress. And so it is rather bizarre that the first widespread change in how people spell English words appears to have come from a group of (largely) young people sending text messages to one another with cellular phones and other electronic devices.
You may not like seeing the phrase ”LOL — U R gr8” on the page, but it is common enough that you are likely to understand it. Why have such inadvertent ”reforms” succeeded where generations of dedicated intellectual attempts have not? And will they last? For most of the history of the language, English speakers took a lackadaisical approach to spelling; the notion that a word should always be spelled the same way is a much more recent invention than the language itself.
The standardization of English spelling began in the 16th century, and although it is unclear at exactly what point our spelling became set, what is certain is that ever since it happened, people have complained that the rules of spelling, such as they are, just don’t make sense. Perhaps the most successful attempt at spelling reform (at least in America) was wrought by Noah Webster, who managed to forever make Americans view the British honour and theatre as off-kilter. Some portion of Webster’s determination to change -our to -or and -re to -er was due to nationalist fervor; he wanted his countrymen to break free of the orthographic bonds of their oppressors.
He was noticeably less successful in convincing Americans of the utility of many of his other ideas, like spelling oblique as obleek, machine as masheen and prove as proov. I contacted several of the spelling-reform organizations in operation today to ask them about their feelings on adopting text-messaging shorthands as a kind of spelling reform. Alan Mole, the president of the American Literacy Council, when asked if his group had ever considered allying itself with the texters, said that it had not, although he added that text messaging ”does serve the purpose of raising consciousness” about the fact ”that there are different ways of making people spell.” The council, which has picketed the Scripps National Spelling Bee, prefers its own phonetic method of spelling reform, called SoundSpel.
The group offers a downloadable version of SoundSpel (ententetranslator.com/IDL.htm) that can instantly translate an entire novel’s worth of standard English into a more spellable, if less recognizable, form. The sister organization of the council, the British-based Spelling Society, does not advocate adopting texting conventions, either, but this is less surprising, because it does not advocate adopting any particular approach at all. Jack Bovill, the society’s president, wrote in an e-mail message: ”Our present aim is to raise awareness of the problems caused by the irregularity of English spelling. We DO NOT support solutions.” Whether texting conventions are supported by organized spelling reformists or not, can they possibly solve the difficulty of spelling our troublesome language?
David Crystal, the author of ”Txtng: The Gr8 Db8,” told me in an e-mail message that ”there’s nothing in texting to suggest spelling reform,” noting that texting relies heavily on abbreviations, which he sees as creative stylings, not systematic improvements. He added that there is very little that is new about most of the abbreviations and lexical shortenings that make texting so maddening to so many. In fact, he said, with the exception of a few recent coinages like LOL, ”virtually all the commonly used ones can be found in English a century ago.” For example, bn (been), btwn (between) and wd (would) can all be found in a 1942 dictionary of abbreviations. Naomi Baron, a professor of linguistics at American University and author of ”Always On: Language in an Online and Mobile World,” shares Crystal’s view.
She predicts that the number of ”textisms” will stop growing as people continue to develop more proficiency in using handheld devices and as the devices continue to grow more sophisticated than simple telephone touch pads. She adds that part of the appeal of texting shorthands is their novelty, and that that will fade. Crystal did say that a certain amount of spelling reform might eventually come from the Internet: ”People who try to impose reform ‘top down’ rarely succeed. But a ‘bottom up’ movement might well have some permanent effects.” Given that the general attitude toward text messaging is that it comes from the linguistic bottom, it may well be that this masheen-sent lingua franca may proov to one day be less obleek than it is now.
The rapidly growing rate of phone technology at this modernized generation is kind of disturbing. It seems that anywhere you can see people glued to their phones’ screen, fingers typing away. On sidewalks, school premises, even at the crowded places. Majority of these people are teenagers. What are some of the effects that texting is having on the teen literacy? That is the question that the researcher explores in this paper. The researcher tackles about the impacts that texting is making on teenagers, the impacts that making the teenagers’ language and writing skills nowadays.
Text messaging, or texting, is the act of typing and sending a brief, electronic message between two or more mobile phones or fixed or portable devices over a phone network according to. The term originally referred to messages sent using the Short Message Service or SMS; it has grown to include messages containing image, video, and sound content, known as MMS messages. The sender of a text message is known as a texter, while the service itself has different colloquialisms depending on the region. It is simply referred to as a text here in Philippines. (Wikipedia Foundation Inc., 2013)
I. Background of the Study
With the revolutionary new forms of communication that technology has introduced comes a debate on what effect these new digital mediums have on literacy. In the age of text messaging, where words are reduced to nonstandard abbreviations and symbols, many people question the future of literacy especially to teenagers. There is no arguing that teenagers nowadays text more than ever.
The majority of population claims that the short hand and abbreviated characteristics of text messaging are making teenagers lazy, not forcing them to use the proper grammar and spelling that teenagers learn in school. Considering the popularity of text messaging to teenagers, it is believed that this type of communication is destroying the way people read, think and write. Text messaging was even preferred by some as “The Dumbest Generation”.
One study (Hogan et al., 2012) states that cell phones are becoming a necessity this modern day, to the point where every teenager and adult must have at least one. Individuals are rapidly depending to these devices for communication purposes. Most new technologies such as text messaging emerge on the social and academic scene. Many people are cautious and untrusting of new technologies that they worry about the riff it could cause in the talk of literacy. It is important for academics to embrace the importance of bringing daily literacies used by younger generations to engage them more critically in the talk of language and technology.
(Thurlow, 2006) Based on John Myhra’s article, “Negative Effects of Texting in the Classroom”, the over-use of texting has been damaging to the way students write formally in the school premises and even in the society. The character limitations of text messages have caused students to form their own style of writing and terminologies. This style has caused them to carry it over to formal academic writing projects. Students’ writings are little to no depth, terrible grammar, and are abbreviating almost every word they write. Texting has negatively affected the way students write. (Myhra, 2010)
II. Objective of the Study
The objective of this study is to aware and educate the readers on the possible effects of text messaging to individual’s literacy, especially to teenagers. This study also aims to educate readers on how to control and minimize teenagers’ text messaging addiction. Through reading this study, readers will have knowledge on how text messaging affects the literacy of a teenager.
III. Significance of the Study This study is significant to every individual, most probably to teenagers because almost all of the population nowadays deals with text messaging. This study would be a great help to aware and remind one’s self on not to indulge to text messaging that much and knowledgeable enough on how text messaging might affect one’s literacy. By that means, texters will be responsible enough to control themselves from texting frequently and this would be an aid to minimize text messaging addiction.
Before Howard University student Imani Wiltshire shoots off an e-mail, she reads it over for mistakes. In a culture that uses abbreviations and ignores grammar and spelling in favor of speed, the 21-year-old stands out among her peers. She cares about her language usage, she says, because she is majoring in English and secondary education.
Text messaging and instant messaging have their own lingo of acronyms and abbreviations that hasten communication and save finger work. Though the lingo is showing up in more formal writing, such as in e-mails to college professors and employers, it remains up to debate whether the English language, both spoken and written, is deteriorating “IRL” – in real life. “Our generation is the middle passage.
We don’t know which way to go,” Ms. Wiltshire says. “Some of us still push for books and older systems. As we get older, we see more emphasis on computer knowledge and computer literacy.” E-mail, text messaging and electronic communications have “pretty much destroyed literacy and how students communicate,” says Kitty Ellison, director of the writing program
in the department of English at Howard.
“Because text messaging and e-mail don’t require students to conform to standard English, this gets picked up in standard writing,” Ms. Ellison says. Ms. Ellison receives e-mail messages from students that follow the dictates of the informal method of communication instead of those of standard writing. She asks students who want to discuss a grade change, a problem with a professor or another issue to put their concerns into writing, but what she gets back often contains lowercase letters, abbreviations and unconventional language use, she says.
“It seeps into their DNA that this is the way you communicate,” she says. Add to that the fact students are reading less and what they are reading is not preferred by English teachers, such as magazines instead of classic literature, Ms. Ellison says. “We have a problem in this country with folks, adults as well as students, not really understanding or knowing how to read,” she says. “It requires focus. … and you have to have the time to sit down and read” Michael Olmert, a lecturer in the English department at the University of Maryland in College Park, agrees that the decline in reading is the cause of the language deteriorating, though he also points out that the language always is deteriorating and evolving as a matter of course.
“People are not reading, not because they’re stupid. [There are] too many choices,” says Mr. Olmert, who holds a doctorate in medieval studies and English literature. He writes television documentaries for the Discovery Channel on history and nature. “It’s much easier to watch TV than read a book.” The decline in reading began with the age of television in the early 20th century, Mr. Olmert says. Most Americans spend 10 to 15 hours a week watching television, time that used to be spent reading or staring out the window, he says. “We’re attention-span-challenged,” he says.
“Teachers try to push reading, but there’s so many other things to get our attention.” The National Endowment for the Arts reported in the November 2007 research report “To Read or not to Read, A Question of National Consequence” that Americans are spending less time reading and that their reading comprehension skills are eroding. The report assembled data on reading trends from more than 40 sources, including federal agencies, universities and associations, to analyze the reading patterns of children, teenagers and adults in the United States. The report states that nearly half of all Americans ages 18 to 24 read no books for pleasure and that teens and young adults devote less leisure time than older age groups to reading. When reading does occur, it competes with the use of other media, the report says.
“There’s a sense of laxness with the English language right now, grammar and otherwise, but whether the language is deteriorating from the use of these media, we have to wait a little more for the data,” says Sunil Iyengar, director of the Office of Research and Analysis at the National Endowment for the Arts. “Because so much of technology is new in relative terms, there haven’t been any long-term, sustained studies, particularly on the relationship of technology and language,” he says. Even so, reading material online cannot replace the concentration required for traditional reading formats, Mr. Iyengar says. “Most print media requires that you look at it closely and read it in linear fashion,” he says.
“People go on a Web site to get information and are not necessarily doing reading. They might skim something and grab some information.” The emergence of the telegraph in 1840 can be compared to today’s electronic communication, says Allan Metcalf, executive secretary of the American Dialect Society, a scholarly association dedicated to the study of the English language in North America.
He is a professor of English at MacMurray College in Jacksonville, Ill. The telegraph, like text and instant messaging, encouraged brief messages, paid for by the word, that used abbreviations and code words, says Mr. Metcalf, who holds a doctorate in English. Though text and instant messages do not have to be paid for by the word, the messages take more time and effort to input than typing on a keyboard, Mr. Metcalf says.
“My prediction is this is just another mode of writing that has a different style, a different grammar, at least a different set of rules for spelling. It’s not going to change the basic way we write,” he says. This mode of writing gives students another outlet for writing, says Michele Schmidt Moore, instructional supervisor of English and language arts for Loudoun County Public Schools. “I think the students know when to use what … and where to use things appropriately,” Ms Schmidt Moore says. “Maybe in a rough draft, you might see a lowercase letter. In the final draft, they write standard English.”
Unit Writing Project:
Political Activism through Literacy
Research an issue of concern and consider a way of using literacy in any medium to articulate and promote the cause. Examples to consider are the concerns surrounding freedom of information in light of the Manning/Snowden/Wikileaks controversies or socio-economic justice issues in communities of your own. In the first example, investigative journalists have used news articles to re-frame the plight of the information activists and attract public sympathy. The Reflect website promotes literacy as a social justice issue for poor women in developing nations and so on.
Using the texts of this unit as points of inspiration, draft a 3-4 page, double-spaced explication of your chosen cause and discuss how literacy can promote awareness or be utilized as part of a sustainable solution. Aim to include within this paper a description and overview of your chosen issue and to provide enough context for uninformed readers to understand thoroughly not just the issue and why it’s relevant, but how literacy can be used in a progressive way to transform the situation. Think about how descriptive and factual information can be used to convince an audience of possible sympathizers who may become interested in supporting your endeavors.
Evaluations for this project will be based on summarization of the issue, creative application of transformative ideas and clear, concise, professional use of language to incite some form of activism on behalf of the cause. Also, look to begin including citations as part of your process of writing in the academy.
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