Recent reports reveal that kids across the UK are handing in schoolwork infested with “text speak”. This alarming development is being blamed on electronic communication devices, most notably mobile phones. Apparently up to one in seven children regularly use text abbreviations that are derived from the practice of text messaging (texting) in tests and essays. These include ‘4’ instead of ‘for’, ‘u’ instead of ‘you’ and even ‘l8r’ instead of ‘later’!
It’s been further divulged that boys seem to be the main culprits here. A recent UK-wide survey discovered that boys are more than twice as likely as girls to proclaim that they ‘hate writing’; with over 20% saying they did not enjoy writing at all, compared with just over 8% of girls. 35,000 pupils between the ages of 8 and 16 took part in the survey conducted by the National Literacy Trust and has resulted in a call for a ‘renewed focus at school and home’ to encourage boys to write.
Nearly a third of boys say they ‘never or rarely’ write outside of the classroom compared with 17% of girls. However, a third of girls write outside of class on a daily basis. The Children and Young People’s Writing in 2012 survey contains disheartening news for parents and teachers alike, including the fact that almost 20% of boys admit that they would be embarrassed if friends were to see them writing. A massive 30% of the boys surveyed claim that there is no point in learning spelling or grammar because they can use the spellchecker.
Experts are warning that this disturbing collapse in standards may lead to a disastrous impact on children’s education and are calling for this situation to be addressed effectively. However, with so many young children using mobile phones nowadays, it’s difficult to see how this situation can be remedied.
As parents, we all want the best for our kids and child safety is of paramount importance – this is one of the major reasons that so many of our children have mobile phones. A mobile is a great way of making sure our kids can contact us 24/7 so that we can respond instantly at the first hint of trouble. However, we need to make sure that the kids use the mobile wisely and that they don’t spend too much time texting when they should be learning – this is why so many schools insist that they are turned off during class.
One school, the West Bridgford School in Nottinghamshire has a ‘zero tolerance’ policy where mobile phones are concerned. The Head teacher claims there is no reason for parents to contact their kids while on their way to and from school because most of them live quite close by. There has even been an incident of phone footage of a partially dressed girl pupil being uploaded to the internet. This is not behaviour we want to encourage in our children – this could put them more at risk than not owning a mobile phone would. After all, we all managed without mobile phones and instant communications until recent years.
We all know that mobile phones have no place in the classroom and need to teach our kids that point. However, as parents, we also need to encourage our kids to read more and to write for pleasure if possible. If they show no desire to do this, we must at least insist that they are writing thank you letters to friends and family for birthday and Christmas gifts. It will be a great shame if literary traditions were to become lost in this new Digital Age because our kids can no longer read and write properly.