Texting and Grammar

Duz Txting Hurt Yr Kidz Gramr? Absolutely, a New Study Says

By Sarah D. Sparks on July 27, 2012 9:31 AM
“Wud u lk 2 meet me 4 brgr 2nite?”

If you’ve ever looked at a teenager’s text message and thought it looked more like a kindergartener’s scrawl, you might not be far off.

Middle school students who frequently use “tech-speak”—omitting letters to shorten words and using homophone symbols, such as @ for “at” or 2nite for “tonight”—performed worse on a test of basic grammar, according to a new study in New Media & Society.

Drew P. Cingel, a doctoral candidate in media, technology, and society at Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., conducted the experiment when he was an undergraduate with the Media Effects Research Laboratory at Penn State University in University Park, Pa. under director S. Shyam Sundar. The researchers surveyed 228 6th, 7th, and 8th graders in central Pennsylvania on their daily habits, including the number of texts they sent and received, their attitudes about texting, and their other activities during the day, such as watching television or reading for pleasure. The researchers then assessed the students using 22 questions adapted from a 9th-grade grammar test to include only topics taught by 6th grade, including verb/noun agreement, use of correct tense, homophones, possessives, apostrophes, comma usage, punctuation, and capitalization.

Mr. Cingel, who published the study while at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., and Mr. Sundar found that the more often students sent text messages using text-speak (shortened words and homophones), the worse their grammar—a concern as 13- to 17-year-olds send more than twice the number of text messages each month than any other age group.

Moreover, the more often a student received text messages using tech-speak, the more likely he or she was to send messages using that language. There was no gender difference after accounting for the amount of texting each student did, though teenage girls have been found in other studies to send and receive nearly twice as many messages per month as boys do: 4,050 texts on average, compared with 2,539.

Mr. Cingel started the project after receiving texts from his young nieces “that, for me, were incomprehensible,” he said in a statement. “I had to call them and ask them, ‘What are you trying to tell me?'”

While texting has caused consternation among educators and parents since the 1990s for distracted writing as well as driving, changing communication technology historically has changed the way people speak and write over time. That journalistic standard, the inverted pyramid structure (write the most important thing first, the second most important thing second, and so on) developed in the telegraph era, when reporters’ stories often were cut off mid-transition. Similarly, the need to respond quickly and briefly in text messages—and the outright character limit in social media like Twitter—puts pressure on students to cut out any unnecessary sounds. In fact, some studies have found students who text frequently are better at spelling and identifying homophones, as they have to, to turn “great” into “gr8.”

Furthermore, contrary to Mr. Cingel’s experience with his nieces, many people can understand words spelled phonetically or in even more mixed-up ways, and teenagers can view tech-speak both as a shortcut and a means of expressing identity—particularly if it’s a little hard for parents to make out.

“People get creative in terms of trying to express a lot. The economy of expression forces us to take shortcuts with our expression. We know people are texting in a hurry, they are on mobile devices, and so they are making these compromises,” Mr. Sundar said. “It’s not surprising that grammar is taking a back seat in that context. What is worrisome is it somehow seems to transfer over to their offline grammar skills. They are not code-switching offline.”

In that way, students who use tech-speak differ from those who speak multiple languages; multilingual children have been found to switch back and forth easily among their languages in different contexts and may actually be more flexible in other ways of thinking. Tech-speak is similar enough to standard English that researchers believe it may bleed over into different contexts more easily.

“Ultimately it’s not seen as a different language, so they kind of get used to communicating English language this way, the more they try to generalize what they do in texting to the normal grammatical rules of writing,” Mr. Sundar said.

Likewise, teachers can help their text-happy students shore up their grammar skills, Mr. Sundar said, both by making them more aware of their grammar usage and by assigning writing tasks that differ significantly from their typical texting topics. So, for example, writing an essay debating a current issue or writing a letter to the president might be more likely to trigger students to switch into using more formal language, and thus cement their grammar skills. As students become more adept in grammar, they can be encouraged to think about their grammar choices in texting more consciously, he said.

The study found some evidence to back this approach: Students who texted the most did not have more trouble with capitalization and punctuation, although text messages also often contain less of either. Mr. Sundar theorized that capitalization and punctuation may be more resistant to the degradation of texting because they are taught in earlier grades than other grammar rules and thus have had more time to take root in students’ language.

Then again, considering the ubiquity of texting and Tweeting, Mr. Sundar said, “It’s only a matter of time before ‘gr8‘ is in the Oxford dictionary.”

Original article

Explaining the News to Our Kids

From Common Sense Media:

Explaining the News to Our Kids

Kids get their news from many sources — and they’re not always correct. How to talk about the news — and listen, too.
by Common Sense Media | Jul. 20, 2012

Talking to Your Kids About the News

Help put the news in perspective

Shootings, terrorist attacks, natural disasters, end-of-the-world predictions — even local news reports of missing kids and area shootings — all of this can be upsetting news even for adults, much less kids. In our 24/7 news world, it’s become nearly impossible to shield kids from distressing current events.

Today, kids get news from everywhere. This constant stream of information shows up in sharable videos, posts, blogs, feeds, and alerts. And since much of this content comes from sites that are designed for adult audiences, what your kids see, hear, or read might not always be age appropriate. Making things even more challenging is the fact that many kids are getting this information directly on their phones and laptops. Often parents aren’t around to immediately help their children make sense of horrendous situations.

The bottom line is that young kids simply don’t have the ability to understand news events in context, much less know whether or not a source of information is credible. And while older teens are better able to understand current events, even they face challenges when it comes to sifting fact from opinion — or misinformation.

No matter how old your kid is, threatening or upsetting news can affect them emotionally. Many can feel worried, frightened, angry — even guilty. And these anxious feelings can last long after the news event is over. So what can you do as a parent to help your kids deal with all of this information?

Tips for all kids

Reassure your children that they’re safe. Tell your kids that even though a story is getting a lot of attention, it was just one event and was most likely a very rare occurrence. And remember that your kids will look to the way you handle your reactions to determine their own approach. If you stay calm and considered, they will, too.

Tips for kids under 7

Keep the news away. Turn off the TV and radio news at the top of the hour and half hour. Read the newspaper out of range of young eyes that can be frightened by the pictures. Preschool children don’t need to see or hear about something that will only scare them silly, especially because they can easily confuse facts with fantasies or fears.

At this age, kids are most concerned with your safety and separation from you. They’ll also respond strongly to pictures of other young children in jeopardy. Try not to minimize or discount their concerns and fears, but reassure them by explaining all the protective measures that exist to keep them safe. If you’re flying somewhere with them, explain that extra security is a good thing.

Tips for kids 8-12

Carefully consider your child’s maturity and temperament. Many kids can handle a discussion of threatening events, but if your children tend toward the sensitive side, be sure to keep them away from the TV news; repetitive images and stories can make dangers appear greater, more prevalent, and closer to home.

At this age, many kids will see the morality of events in stark black-and-white terms and are in the process of developing their moral beliefs. You may have to explain the basics of prejudice, bias, and civil and religious strife. But be careful about making generalizations, since kids will take what you say to the bank. This is a good time to ask them what they know, since they’ll probably have gotten their information from friends, and you may have to correct facts.

You might explain that even news programs compete for viewers, which sometimes affects content decisions. If you let your kids use the Internet, go online with them. Some of the pictures posted are simply grisly. Monitor where your kids are going, and set your URLs to open to non-news-based portals.

Tips for teens

Check in. Since, in many instances, teens will have absorbed the news independently of you, talking with them can offer great insights into their developing politics and their senses of justice and morality. It will also give you the opportunity to throw your own insights into the mix (just don’t dismiss theirs, since that will shut down the conversation immediately).

Many teens will feel passionately about events and may even personalize them if someone they know has been directly affected. They’ll also probably be aware that their own lives could be impacted by terrorist tactics. Try to address their concerns without dismissing or minimizing them. If you disagree with media portrayals, explain why so that your teens can separate the mediums through which they absorb news from the messages conveyed.

Original article

Dad’s Love Can Be Crucial for Happy Childhood, Study Confirms

For many kids, rejection by father can be even more devastating than by mother

For many kids, rejection by father can be even more devastating than by mother.(For many kids, rejection by father can be even more devastating than by mother. )

FRIDAY, June 15 (HealthDay News) — Move over, tiger moms. Dads can play an even more significant role in the development of happy, well-adjusted children than do mothers, a new study indicates.

Just in time for Father’s Day, findings from a large-scale review of research shed light on how parental acceptance and rejection can affect the personalities of progeny well into adulthood.

“In our 50 years of research in every continent but Antarctica, we have found that nothing has as strong and consistent an effect on personality development as does being rejected by a parent — especially by a father — in childhood,” said study co-author Ronald Rohner, director of the Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for the Study of Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection at the University of Connecticut, in Storrs.

The study, published recently in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review, analyzed 36 studies, from 1975 to 2010, involving almost 1,400 adults and 8,600 children in 18 countries. The children ranged in age from 9 to 18, and adults were between 18 and 89.

All the studies included in the review included an assessment of seven personality traits considered central to what is called “parental acceptance-rejection theory.”

Those traits — aggression, independence, positive self-esteem, positive self-adequacy, emotional responsiveness, emotional stability and positive worldview — were evaluated using self-report questionnaires. Participants were asked about their parents’ degree of acceptance or rejection during their childhoods and about their own personality characteristics or tendencies.

“The study shows a strong relationship between those seven traits and the experience of feeling accepted and cared about by your parents,” said Dr. John Sargent, a professor of psychology and pediatrics at Tufts University School of Medicine and chief of child and adolescent psychiatry at Tufts Medical Center, in Boston.

“What’s really important to kids is to know they’re accepted by their parents,” Sargent said.

Study author Rohner said fathers may have a greater impact on a child’s personality because children and teenagers pay more attention to the parent who seems to have greater interpersonal power, or influence, in the family’s power hierarchy.

He explained that when a father is perceived as having more power, even if he spends less time with the children, he can have a greater impact. That’s because his comments or actions seem to stand out more notably. This is despite the fact that, all over the world, mothers tend to spend more time with kids than fathers do.

While not being accepted causes identifiable personality issues, acceptance doesn’t necessarily confer particular benefits. “Unfortunately, humans respond more dramatically to negative things,” Rohner said. Rejection predicts a specific set of negative outcomes — such as hostility, low self-esteem, negativity — while feeling loved and accepted is not as closely associated with particular positive outcomes, he explained.

There was no difference seen in the importance of a father’s love for girls versus boys.

The study does not establish a causal connection between respondents’ personalities and perceptions of being accepted or rejected.

Rohner said the research shows that society tends to place too much emphasis on the impact of mothers on children, often blaming them for troublesome personality traits or behaviors, even into adulthood. “We need to start giving greater acclaim to dads, and put them on an equal footing with moms in terms of their impact on children,” he said.

“Our work should encourage dads to get really involved in the loving care of their children at an early age,” Rohner said. “Their kids will be measurably better off.”

More information

The University of Connecticut has more about acceptance and rejection in families.

SOURCES: Ronald P. Rohner, professor emeritus and director, Ronald and Nancy Rohner Center for Interpersonal Acceptance and Rejection, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn.; John Sargent, M.D., professor, psychology and pediatrics, Tufts University School of Medicine, and chief, child and adolescent psychiatry, Tufts Medical Center, Boston; May 2012 Personality and Social Psychology Review


Children Use of Mobile Phones – Survey Results

To better understand the landscape for families and mobile phones, AT&T commissioned GfK for a national study with 1,000 parents and 500 children ages 8–17.

The study found that:

Kids start receiving mobile phones in grade school

  • Kids receive their first mobile phone, on average, at age 12.1.
  • Of the kids who have a mobile phone, 34% have a smartphone.

Mobile issues are very real for kids

  • More than half (53%) of kids report that they have ridden with someone who was texting and driving.
  • More than 1 in 5 kids (22%) say they’ve been bullied via a text message from another kid.
  • Almost half (46%) of kids ages 11–17 say they have a friend who has received a message or picture that their parents would not have liked because it was too sexual.

Kids are willing to accept rules

  • 90% of kids think it’s OK for parents to set rules on how kids can and cannot use the phone.
  • 66% of kids have rules at home about use of their phone; 92% of these kids think they are fair — and this is consistent across age groups and types of phone (i.e., mobile phone and smartphone).

… but aren’t necessarily getting them

  • Only 66% of kids say their parents have rules on how they can and cannot use their phone. Rules are much more common among younger kids.
  • 38% of kids say their parents have not talked to them about staying safe and secure when using the mobile phone.
  • 77% of kids age 8–11 and 74% of kids age 12–14 say they have rules, compared to only 58% of kids age 15–17.

Mobile phones are a kid’s go-to device

  • If kids had to choose one technology device for the rest of their lives, the majority say they would choose a mobile phone above all else — computer, television, tablet.
  • 75% of kids think their friends are addicted to phones.

Not all parents are using or are aware of the tools at their disposal

  • 62% of parents are concerned that they are not able to fully monitor everything their child is doing and seeing on the phone.
  • 2 out of 5 kids with a mobile phone say their parents have not talked to them about staying safe and secure when using the mobile phone.
  • 58% of parents say that their mobile phone provider offers tools or resources for parents to address issues like overages, safety, security and monitoring.