Do Texting and “Cyber Slang” Harm Students’ Writing Skills?

Introduction

Texting has become part of our daily communication routines, from simple Hello’s to lengthy messages and chats. In an era where everyone owns or has owned a mobile phone or a computer, texting becomes inevitable. Advancement in technology and especially in social media has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. 

The use of computers, 3G and 4G wireless connections, and Wi-Fi connects all of us together, making the world a ‘global village.’ The interconnections being experienced in the world has been praised repeatedly as bringing humans from all walks of life together and keeping us informed about the happening of faraway places. However, as much as the communication boom is being praised for its many benefits, some negative effects are starting to crop up everywhere - the use of cyber slang.


Cyber slang is the use of shortcuts, abbreviations, and smileys that represent emotions while communicating on an electronic document such as on emails, and texts. This worrying trend has crept into student’s classrooms and is seriously affecting their writing skills. In most cases, cyber slang is used more frequently if there is a limit as to how much one can write. Platforms such as Twitter have a word limit; thus, encourages the use of abbreviations and shortcuts.



Figure 1:  Some Common Social Media Slangs 
(source: http://www.thegeeksclub.com/12646-common-facebook-slang-words-full-form-chattingstatus/)

Abbreviations such as TBT (Throwback Thursday), IDK (I Don’t Know) and YOLO (You Only Live Once) are just but an example of how young people communicate these days. Everyone is becoming more creative in order to maximize the limited space provided. This trend has gotten into classrooms and is baffling many teachers who do not know how to handle the situation. Additionally, this new trend hinders communication especially where older people are involved. It becomes very hard for them to interpret the message as required.


Figure 2: Students using Slang in Verbal Communication 
(Source: http://www.readunwritten.com/2014/10/17/how-words-change-their-meaning-from-high-school-to-college/)

It is becoming increasingly hard for students to construct grammatically correct sentences even when undertaking their exams. According to the Shravan Goli- President of dictionary.com, online conversations that encourage the use of slang should only be used on those platforms. Students need good solid reading and writing skills for them to prosper. It is a worrying trend that literacy levels in America seem to be dropping every day. One wonders if the communication devices are helping or making the situation even worse.


Figure 3: Some of Cyber Slangs used by the Young 
(Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Understand-Canadian-Slang)

Cyber slang is not only negatively affecting students’ classwork activities but has also crept into formal writing. Reports from Pew Internet show that more and more people are incorporating cyber slang in their formal writing. Formal writing here representing areas such as the official letter writing and reports. 

Lately, one only needs to go through social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook to see how much cyber slang has affected the use of proper English. Most people are no longer able to write neither essays nor articles due to the negative influence of cyber slang. A Facebook page called ‘if you think the rules at Union County High School are ridiculous,’ gives many examples on the use of cyber slang. While Goli thinks that the use of cyber slang is spiraling out of control, he says that the same technology can be used as a ‘cool’ tool to teach children proper ways of communicating with one another.


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