Negative Effects Of Texting In The Classroom

By John Myhra



Digital natives, people born after 1980, have grown up with new technology and are using it every day, multiple times a day. This research will uncover why this new technology, text messaging in particular, is affecting students’ learning.
Texting like any form of writing takes time, and on a small keyboard like a cellular device, it can take even longer. Over the years, “texters” have saved time by creating a new form of shorthand often called “chat-speak”. This form of writing uses abbreviations that includes numbers, symbols and, incorrect grammar. Students who text every day have gotten so used to this form of writing that they are starting to use it for school related projects and real world scenarios, such as job applications.

What critics are noticing

One critic says that this type of communication is destroying the way our kids read, think, and write (Tomita, 5). She goes on to say that it also does not require critical thinking or analysis. O’Connor, another critic, reported that the more students use tools like instant messaging, the less they are able to separate formal and informal English. For example they abbreviate “y-o-u”, “u”.
A problem some teachers are noticing is that students no longer know how to punctuate correctly. Text messages often contain run on sentences and don’t contain any punctuation; students are carrying this poor habit to the classroom. Another concern is the use of lowercase letters. Students aren’t using capital letters where they should. These are only a few of the problems that have arisen due to the overuse of texting
One scholarly journal conducted an experiment to test the general literacy ability of sixty-five 11 and 12 year old children in the Midlands of England. The experiment required these children to translate sentences in English to “chat speak” (I can’t wait to see you later tonight, is anyone else going to be there?) and then translate “chat speak” into English (Hav u cn dose ppl ova dere?). They found that many of the students used incorrect grammar and punctuation in their Standard English writing. Errors made in translating from text language into English included missing words, missing punctuation (mates), textisms left un-translated (hav), and simple misspellings (girlfrend) (“Txt msg n school literacy…”, 3). The study also found that the students who texted more made more errors than those who texted less.
One study done by Amanda O’Connor states: “According to Lee (2002), "teachers say that papers are being written with shortened words, improper capitalization and punctuation, and characters like &, $ and @. " However, something that is not always considered is that these mistakes are often unintentional – when students use IM frequently, they reach a saturation point where they no longer notice the IM lingo because they are so used to seeing it” (“Instant Messaging: Friend or Foe of Student Writing?”, 2). One student, a fifteen year-old boy wrote on his job application “i want 2 b a counselor because i love to work with kids.” Also, Montana Hodgen, a 16 year-old girl from New Jersey said she was so accustomed to instant messaging abbreviations that she reads past them when she sees them. O’Connor’s point is that kids who heavily use forms of instant messaging, such as texting, can change how they “read words on a page”.
In an article by Norm Goldstein and Clinton Gardner, they talk about how the speed of writing using a computer has an effect on peoples’ writing: “There's no sense in debating the attitude. According to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, 90 percent of Americans between the ages of 5 and 17 use computers. And, in most cases, you'd have to agree: Computers are better. The legitimate worry, though, is what this will mean to writing in the future. Not just handwriting, but the style, spelling, punctuation, grammar of all written expression. The effects-ill effects-are already apparent. Just read e-mails for evidence” (“Speak Out: Does technology hurt student writing?” 1). The article says, that because computers today can automatically correct spelling and punctuation, it is affecting the way students spell and punctuate on hand written assignments. This can also be true of the new “iPhones”. Technology has become so advanced that now cell phones automatically correct spelling errors. People who own iPhones don’t have to worry about spelling anymore. All the iPhone owners have to worry about is speed. The lack of conciseness when it comes to writing a text message is outstanding. Texters no longer have to worry about what they’re writing. They can breeze through a long text message and not have to worry about spelling errors. This is negatively affecting the way people write shorthand. When it comes down to writing shorthand, these “texters” and “IM-ers” have no clue how certain words are spelled. They are so used to the phone or computer writing it for them.

Students’ Viewpoints

There are many teachers, business men and women, philosophers, etc. that think that instant messaging systems, like text messaging, negatively affects student’s ability to write. It is also important to get the viewpoint of students. Edutopia, an educational website for students, conducted a poll regarding the issue of text messaging versus grammar (“Text Messaging and its Effects on Teens’ Grammar” 1). Almost 300 people voted, and the results were in favor of “Yes, I believe students are carrying over the writing habits they pick up through text messaging into school assignments.” Nearly half of the votes were “yes” while only about 30 percent were “no.” Also, about 20 percent voted that although texting may have some impact on how students write, it’s not a significant problem. Together, 70 percent of the votes casted agreed that texting does have some impact on student’s writing. Students who voted “yes” have probably used text messaging lingo in their school work or have seen it used. When students admit to using this text messaging lingo to complete homework assignments it’s obvious that it is a problem.
The Pew Internet and American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing conducted a phone survey. 700 12 to 17 year-olds were called all across the nation and asked if they used shortcuts or symbols, often used in text messaging, in homework assignments. 64 percent of these teens who were called admitted to using shortcuts in school work.

Who’s to Blame?

The question that many people are asking is: who is to blame for students’ inability to properly write in formal English when it calls for it? Obviously students are accountable for what they write on their homework assignments and other formal writing projects, but it is the roll of teachers in the English Language Arts Program to educate students on the correct use of formal and informal writing.
Proponents of text messaging say that texting is good for students because it causes them to write more, and students have been writing more than ever before. This is true. However, text messages are often created using a lack of critical analysis. There are character limitations to text messages and students have accustomed their text messaging writing to accompany these limitations. One English teacher put it well when they said a sentence in a text message may only contain five words and “get the job done” so students are thinking that shortened responses will also “get the job done” in the classroom (“Text Messaging and its Effects on Teens’ Grammar” 2).

How Much do Students Text?

There is no arguing that students now-a-day text more than ever. Statistically phone bills show that on average, teens send and receive about 1800 text messages per month. This increase in text messaging has affected how students write formally. They may be properly taught on how to differentiate between formal and informal English, but their homework assignments show that they are using text messaging lingo to complete these assignments.
An interesting story that fits well to the statement that students, who text more, have trouble writing is as follows. Two students, Chase and Carol, were in the same ninth grade English class. They didn’t hang out outside of their English class and had different friend groups. Carol’s family couldn’t afford to purchase the “unlimited texting plan” for their phones, so her texting was restricted. Chase on the other hand, had the unlimited text messaging capability for his phone. He texted a lot and averaged about 3500 text messages sent and received per month. For their English class, they had to write an essay about a topic they were assigned. They were paired up to peer-review. While editing, Carol noticed some mistakes in Chase’s paper, but refrained from editing them – she didn’t want Chase to get mad. When the English teacher read Chases paper she noticed that it included informal use of English (b/c and cuz for because). It also included short choppy sentences that had no depth what-so-ever and no explanation of the topic. Carol’s paper on the other hand had a thesis statement, supporting paragraphs with details and descriptions. This story is a great example of how the more a student texts directly affects their ability to write formally.


It is accurate to say that the over-use of texting has been detrimental to the way students write formally in the classroom and in the real world. The character limitations on text messages have caused students to form their own style of writing. Using this style so frequently has caused them to carry it over to formal writing projects. Although students are writing more than ever, they are writing with little to no depth, terrible grammar, and are abbreviating almost every word they write. Texting has negatively affected the way students write.

Works Cited

Bivens-Tatum, Wayne. “The Dumbest Generation?”. Academic Librarian. September 9, 2008. <>.
Dean K. Tomita. “Text Messaging and Implications for its use in Education.” University of Hawai’i at Manoa. 2009. <>.
Dillon, Sam. “What Corporate America Can’t Build: A Sentence”. The New York Times. December 7, 2004. <>.
Friess, Steve. “Yo, can u plz help me write English?”. USA TODAY. March 31, 2003. <>.
Goldstein, Norm and Gardner, Clinton. “Speak Out: Does technology hurt student writing?”. American Teacher. March 2005. <>.
O’Connor, Amanda. “Instant Messaging: Friend or Foe of Student Writing?”. March 2005. <>.
Plester, Wood, and Bell. “Txt msg n school literacy: does texting and knowledge of text abbreviations adversely affect children’s literacy attainment?”. October 24, 2008. <>.
Snow, Nathaniel. “Is IM/text speak destroying the English language, or can it serve to educate?”. <>.
The University of Alabama Computers and Applied Technology Program. “Text Messaging and its Effects on Teens’ Grammar”. Technology Education: A series of Case Studies. 2009. <>.
Vosloo, Steve. “The effects of texting on literacy: Modern scourge or opportunity?”. Shuttleworth Foundation. April 2009. < pubs/texting_and_literacy_apr09_sv.pdf>.