Kids take to new technology like flies to honey. Among many older folks, it’s conventional wisdom that if you’ve been flummoxed by your computer, video recorder or other high tech gadget, the quickest and cheapest way to solve the problem is to call in a twelve year old to fix it. Lots of kids today grow up with a keyboard in one hand and a joystick in the other.
There are plenty of benefits to introducing kids to tech devices early. Using the devices becomes second nature to them, so the learning curve is less steep. Playing video games helps to develop hand-eye coordination. They learn multi-tasking skills from juggling several computer programs at once. Surfing the Web can expose them to a vast array of knowledge that wasn’t available to those of us who grew up without the availability of commercial Internet services, even in some of our best libraries. And kids can have a rich social life and meet a much more diverse group of people to which they might never be exposed in their own hometowns. They can also stay in touch with family members and friends, both local and those who live at a distance, much more easily.
Unfortunately, there are potential harmful effects, in addition to the positive ones. Many parents worry that violent video games may desensitize children to violent behavior in real life, and that the Web will lead them to pornography or hate groups as well as information for completing their schoolwork. The people your kids meet online can be good influences – or they could be pedophiles posing as other children to lure unsuspecting youngsters into their traps.
Some experts fear that even in the innocuous communications with people they know, kids may be exposing themselves to hidden ill effects. For example, one type of communication that’s very popular with teenagers is real-time chat. This includes Web-based chat, use of IRC (Internet Relay Chat) programs, Instant Messaging services such as those offered by MSN, AOL and Yahoo, as well as SMS messaging via cell phones.
In order to type their messages more quickly, kids often use a type of phonetic shorthand instead of grammatically correct, properly spelled sentences. For example: “R U going 2?” is much faster and easier to type than “Are you going, too?” This becomes an especially attractive option when using a small keyboard like those on cell phones.
But is this making kids illiterate? Educators, parents and others are divided on that question. Some folks argue that language is always evolving, and newer and more efficient spellings are a good thing. After all, a glance at a page of Olde English will show you that we don’t use the same spellings now that our ancestors used. . Other, more pessimistic folks say IM isn’t so much making kids illiterate as reflecting the growing illiteracy of younger generations.
Some researchers have concluded that teens are able to slip easily between the abbreviations and conventional spelling, but some teachers say they’re seeing the messaging lexicon show up in kids’ school work. Does Shakespeare lose something in translation to “2 b R not 2 b”?
Some experts say the problem is not the lingo itself, but the fact that kids are unable to differentiate between when it is and isn’t appropriate. Like slang and other informal language, what’s okay for chatting with peers is not acceptable when writing an essay – or applying for a job.
What do you think? Is the growing use of “Internet jargon” a problem, or is it just a fad that kids will outgrow as they get older? And if it is causing kids to be less literate, what can be done about it? Should parents prohibit their children from using IM and SMS? That was the solution of the father in this article here.