We’ve all heard the claims that technology is dumbing down America’s children, but are they true? Does texting and online speak truly compromise our kids’ ability to communicate effectively in the “real world?” The answer, according to a recent Pew Internet survey, is yes and no.
### Bigger Audience, Bigger Ideas
First, the good news. The vast majority of middle and high school teachers surveyed (78%) reported that the Internet and social media has positively impacted their students’ creativity. Kids today have more opportunities to share their thoughts and ideas with others via blogs and social media networks, and they’re doing so in mass. Digital tools also allow students to get instant feedback from their peers, which is a great motivator to put their best foot forward.
### OMG Writing Takes Forever
It’s not all good news, though. Teachers report that students today have less patience with the writing process than they did a decade or so ago, meaning that they often struggle with long assignments. Nearly everything in their world is instant, so kids are finding it difficult to sit down and focus on a paper for long periods of time. And when they finally turn in their papers, the final product isn’t always up to snuff mechanically. Teachers are finding that spelling and grammar have suffered because of kids’ texting habits, and common online acronyms are making their way into academic papers.
### Plagiarism is a Problem
Kids have always been tempted to take shortcuts when it comes to writing assignments, but the Internet has made the temptation to plagiarize much greater. Copying and pasting someone else’s work into an essay takes mere seconds, and students don’t always realize the implications of stealing intellectual property. The good news is that teachers are actively tackling the problem; 88% reported that they routinely discuss plagiarism and citation issues during class.
Although it appears that the fears of technology ruining our kids’ writing skills are overblown, parents should still be aware of the eroding effect that texting and online chat can have on their child’s academic prose. It’s also a good idea to limit their time online, so that youngsters can spend more time participating in activities that require longer periods of focus. That way, they’ll be prepared when their teachers assign a lengthier writing assignment.
Do you have other ideas for improving traditional writing in a high-tech world? Share them in the comments section!