Kids Text More and Are More Literate Because of It

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Are TV, computer and cell phone monitors making kids smarter? They are if you connect the conclusions of two separate studies.

One, from the Kaiser Family Foundation, shows today's teens and tweens are consuming more media than ever before via television, the Internet and mobile devices.

The other, which was partly funded by the British Academy, concludes phone texting is helping make youths more literate.

The report, "Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-year-olds," is based on a survey of more than 2,000 students across the U.S. and is the third wave of the nonprofit Kaiser Family Foundation's ongoing examination of children's media use. The same researchers a few years ago thought teens and tweens were consuming about as much media as humanly possible in the hours available, but the most recent figures show young people have somehow found a way to pack in even more.

In the past five years, the time America's 8- to 18-year-olds spend watching TV, playing video games and using a computer for entertainment has risen by 1 hour, 17 minutes a day, to an average of 7 hours, 38 minutes daily or about 53 hours a week.

"What surprised me the most is the sheer amount of media content coming into their lives each day," said Kaiser's Vicky Rideout, who directed the study. "When you step back and look at the big picture, it's a little overwhelming."

The huge increase since 2004 can be attributed to the transformation of the cell phone into a content delivery device, according to Rideout.

The texting study is actually found in an interim report that is based on an ongoing, year-long study of 63 eight- to 12-year-olds in England. But University of Coventry researchers have seen no detrimental effects on young people who text--and don't expect to find any by the time a final report is issued next year.

Researchers, who were surprised to find a link between texting and literacy, discovered text language uses word play and requires an awareness of how sounds relate to written English. Pupils who regularly use text language--with all its mutations of phonetic spelling and abbreviations--also appear to be developing skills in the more formal use of English.

When pupils replace or remove sounds, letters or syllables--such as "l8r" for "later"--it requires an understanding of what the original word should be. So, instead of texting being a destructive influence on learners, the academics argue that it offers them a chance to "practice reading and spelling on a daily basis."

Just imagine how much their math skills will improve once their they're paying the texting bills.

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