Pros of Texting: How does 'Textism' affect teen literacy?

InQuery Podcast with Sabrina Rajpaul

Pros of Texting: How does ‘textism’ affect teen literacy skills?

Intro: You’re listening to InQuery! The podcast show run by the Professional Writing students here at York University. We’re talking about the technology today while creating the ideas of tomorrow.

So, for the past couple years, I’ve been commuting to school, and whether it is the person sitting next to me, or the person standing in front of me, if they are deeply engrossed with their phones, they are often replying to a text, or busy reading one. 

As per a national study conducted by the Pew Research Centre, did you know that text messaging is highly prevalent in 19 of 21 countries? 

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Yes, the world today is becoming more technologically dependant as seconds tick by. 

From the early years of cave paintings, pigeon carrier, the first newspaper, telegrams, the telephone, the t.v., and currently to instant messaging, communication has evolved massively. Today, text messaging has become one of the most effective forms of communication world-wide. Particularly in Canada, 67% of those who own a cellphone, state that they text, or SMS regularly.                                 

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From that percentage, a majority of users are teenagers; to be exact, 96% of phone users are young adults. (

As of today, the trendy myth is that teenagers are the reason why texting has become a popular form of communication, and the “real” reason for a language’s drastic downfall.Truth be told, texting has more cons to it than pros; it can cause an addiction and reduce one’s social skills, however, it is scientifically proven that texting improves teen literacy. But how? 

Hi everyone, this is Sabrina Rajpaul, and in today’s InQuery episode, we will focus on how texting enhances teen literacy skills – and more specifically – on grammar and punctuation used in students’ academic writing. The episode will also be exploring the underestimation of teenagers, by the older generation, based on their ‘lower literacy skills,’ and heavy language dependancy on technology.

Since texting is the most conventional way of communicating amongst teenagers, parents and teachers are most concerned about them and their literacy skills. Actually, so many parents and teachers believe that texting is the evil mastermind behind poor literacy skills, and trust me, they have numerous things to say negatively about texting in Computers in the Schools: Cell phones in the classroom: Teachers’ perspectives of inclusion, benefits, and barriers (Thomas, K. M., O’Bannon, B. W., & Bolton, N. 2013). Simple things such as missing commas, apostrophes, periods, and misspelt words scare teachers, and they find some way or another to blame ‘texting’ for such outcomes.

One of my tutorial leaders for instance, has noticed that over the years students seem to have forgotten the use of apostrophes or misuse them. Being the grammatical person she is, she even started class one day by complaining to us about how we write ICTs with an apostrophe. 

In spite of the authority of our parents’ and teachers’ perspectives, I’m pretty sure majority of the world’s population may also think the same. Although many teens may disagree, in the eyes of the elderly, it seems very much so. Yes, I’m talking about the ‘baby boomer’ generation. They honestly have some distaste towards texting, and we can all understand their judgement.

Miriam Arora: “Things used to be so prim and proper. You would tell someone that you would give them a call at a particular time and they would ensure no one else was using the phone at that same time. It’s a shame our kids will never know the true meaning of patience and waiting. This generation all about instant communication and 24/7 availability.” (

That was Miriam Arora, a senior blogger on Senior Advisor, and her statement in opposition of texting. 

You can all view the rest of their opinions, personal experiences, and their certain approach to the negative effects of texting here. (Link:

Now that the folks of ‘Boomers’ have voiced their views, and we all think we know of the cons of texting, how about you? What do you think of texting? Does it positively affect your literacy skills? 

As a teenager, being posed with this question is quite rare, since I never really thought about it. However, I did decide to carry out my own research, and investigate the various outcomes of this tight-lined topic. To enhance my research, and to understand what teens think of their writing and texting skills, I decided to give 20 teens in the Brampton locality, a questionnaire.

Waiting patiently as each person speedily reads through the questionnaire, I set myself up to expect the unexpected, or the expected results of texting’s influence on teen literacy.

The experiment I conducted was basically, how teens can interchange between textingand using correct grammar and spelling. After analyzing the collected data, the results were very clear. The comparison between texting, and the usage of correct grammar and spelling was very much noticed.   

To summarize my findings, the results were pretty much expected, in accordance to the other scholarly researches conducted in recent years. I noticed that teens texted either 24/7 or very often. Additionally, most of the participants for this questionnaire correctly rewrote the incorrect sentence, grammatically correct. What did take me by surprise was the confidence of the participants, when they decided that texting does not impact one’s writing skills. I expected most of the population to think negatively of texting, however this is not so, especially coming from teens themselves.

Although heavy use of texting, or the “addiction,” may not sound too great, texting is not necessarily bad. Scholarly studies, such as the Pew Research, has proved that teens who communicate through texting tend to achieve a higher standard of literacy. They also found that students were able to differentiate between academic and personal work. 

The discursive patterns between academic and personal work is vastly different. It’s like when you’re speaking to a class, and when you’re speaking with your friends. Now, that’s a huge difference. When you’re in class, your speech tends to be more professional, and proper. On the other hand, if you’re speaking with you’re friends, you would most likely use some slang, a few ‘LOLs’ here or there, and possibly some grammatically incorrect sentences. Moreover, the colloquial expressions used in both atmospheres are tremendously different.

 In fact, an article from the Current Research in Psychology, “Exposure to" Textisms" Does Not Lower Spelling Scores for Elementary School Aged Children” (Anderson, H., & Elsner, R. J. 2014) even suggests that young children exposed to texting, in the sense of abbreviations, plays no affect in a child’s literacy. 

To prove this theory, the United Kingdom Literacy Association conducted a study, and found positive correspondences between the spelling ability and the translation exercise of elementary school students. Based on the children's writing scores, good writing proficiency was associated with greater use of textisms. Essentially, these findings suggest that children's knowledge of textisms does not influence poor written language. (

David Crystal,  a professor at the Bangor University, states that,“It turns out that the best texters, are the best spellers.” He takes it another step further when he says, “The earlier you get your mobile phone, the better your literacy scores.” 

And many of us may ask, why? How is it that texting improves one’s literacy? 

And the answer is, Drumroll please,

According to the ‘Impact of Texting Over Teen Literacy and Social Communication’ in the 2013 edition of Journal of Knowledge & Communication Management, texting is reading and writing. To compose or to read a text, requires literacy skills (Rawat, S. R., Sharma, S., Kanda, A., Lama, S., & Sharma, A. 2013).

And there you go! 

That’s it?  

Well, yeah. In simple terms, you need to know how to read, and how to write to send a text. If you didn’t know how to do so, how do you expect to text away, clicking at so many letters a day, thinking of how best respond to that last message. 

Just to recap from today’s episode of ‘Pros of Texting:’

Even though texting is globally one of the most effective forms of communication, a majority of it’s users are teenagers and young adults.

Although, most people such as: parents, teachers, the older generation, even some of us, a few teenagers, believe that with textism we’re ruining our well defined language, and our literacy rates are rapidly declining; however, this is not the case. With scholarly and primary data at hand, it is proven that textism plays no affect in a teen’s literacy.  

O, how I desperately hope parents and teachers are listening in on this.

Well, that’s the works! Heres something for you to ponder on, do you use correct grammar and spelling while texting?

Once again, this is Sabrina Rajpaul, signing off from InQuery’s Pros of Texting: How does textism affect teen literacy skills? Thanks for listening, and have a great day!

Works Cited:

Anderson, H., & Elsner, R. J. (2014). Exposure to" Textisms" Does Not Lower Spelling Scores for Elementary School Aged Children. Current Research in Psychology, 5(2), 89.

Aziz, S., Shamim, M., Aziz, M. F., & Avais, P. (2013). The impact of texting/SMS language on academic writing of students—What do we need to panic about. Elixir Linguistics and Translation, 55(2013), 12884-12890.

Braun, L. W. (2007). *Teens, technology, and literacy: Or, why bad grammar isn't always bad*. Libraries Unlimited.

Durkin, K., Conti‐Ramsden, G., & Walker, A. J. (2011). Txt lang: Texting, textism use and literacy abilities in adolescents with and without specific language impairment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 27(1), 49-57.

Gentilviso, Chris. "Text Messaging: Is Texting Ruining The Art Of Conversation?" The Huffington Post. Web. 12 Nov. 2015. .

Grace, A., Kemp, N., Martin, F. H., & Parrila, R. (2012). Undergraduates' use of text messaging language: Effects of country and collection method. *Writing Systems Research, *4(2), 167-184.

Rawat, S. R., Sharma, S., Kanda, A., Lama, S., & Sharma, A. (2013). Impact of Texting Over Teen Literacy and Social Communi-cation. *Journal of Knowledge & Communication Management, *3(2), 121-132.

Thomas, K. M., O’Bannon, B. W., & Bolton, N. (2013). Cell phones in the classroom: Teachers’ perspectives of inclusion, benefits, and barriers. *Computers in the Schools, *30(4), 295-308.