How Internet Communication Destroys Writing Standards among Teens

I play an online game called Runescape. It’s very interactive, giving you the chance to play and chat with people all around the world. Most of the players are anywhere from 10 to 17 years old, but there are a fair number of 20-somethings (and even a few in their 30’s and 40’s).

I’ve learned a whole new language while playing this gamechat or internet shorthand. It took me a while to figure out what people were trying to say. Now, I can translate it almost immediately.

IDK means “I don’t know.”

Wat, is “what”.

No one types out “you” anymore, or asks “why?”. It’s “u” and “y” instead. There’s no
punctuation, no attempt at capitalization or grammar. Nothing like that.

OMG, FFS, ROTFL, BRB, are all very common short-hand phrases. (“Oh my god”, “For F* Sakes”, “Rolling on the floor laughing”, and “Be Right Back”, respectively, for those who aren’t “up” on their internet lingo).

I can’t help but wonder if this is going to start causing problems, especially when these kids hit the work force. Granted, it does make online conversing much faster for many. Obviously, typing BRB is much faster than actually saying “Be Right Back”.

But with so many kids talking online, through games, instant messenger services, email, and even cell phone texting, I wonder what they’re learning. Can any of them actually spell “I don’t know”? What about constructing a proper sentence?

Technology has taught us a lot. It’s improved our lives in many ways. Online and electronic communication is becoming the main form of expression for many people.

Whether they realize it or not, kids aren’t just chatting with their friends-they’re practicing the basics of language and written communication skills. Writing an email is much like composing a letter. If the next generation is learning to take short-cuts with their language skills, what do you suppose their business communications will look like.
Not very pretty, if they grow up thinking that “kk”, [okay, cool] is an acceptable way to say “okay” or “alright”.

Here’s a prime example. I was playing online this morning, and this is a conversation I had, with a kid who was working on the same skill. It’s as close to verbatim as I can remember:

Me: I need to get that last piece before I go.

Kid: KK

Me: Do u know how to spell the actual words for “kk”?

Kid: ? [he didn’t even ask ‘what’, or ‘wat’…just typed in the “?”]

Me: What’s the real spelling for Ok?

Kid: ok is the rite spellin!

Me: Nope, it’s actually spelt okay’ [I couldn’t resistat least he learned to spell one word correctly!] Do you know that ‘cool’ is spelt with a c, and not a k?

Kid: lol! [laugh out loud] w/e [whatever]

This kid was 13, or at least that’s what he said. Since we were working on a task in the same area, we ended up talking for about 30 minutes. He was nice, had a great sense of humour, and was able to hold a conversation, with anyone who was able to translate his short hand style.

As you’ve probably seen from that snippet of conversation, his written communication skills leave something to be desired. He was blissfully unaware of how to spell something as simple as “okay”. His thought process was crystal clear, and intelligent. He just couldn’t (or wouldn’t) express himself properly.

It took every ounce of my willpower not to constantly correct himthat would have been annoying, and I didn’t want to offend him. Plus, his character was about 20 levels higher than mine, and I needed his help to kill the big monster!

I left the game pondering these things, and I couldn’t shake the nagging worry that internet short-hand is doing more harm than good.

When our kids are on the computer, whether they’re playing a game, surfing the net, chatting with friends, or working on a school project, they’re learning. They’re building on skills like typing and communication.

Are we really doing them any favours, letting them fall into these short-hand habits, or should we, as parents, be pushing them to express themselves clearly, and make the most of a varied and vibrant language?