Your kids can text, but can they write?
We are not the first generation of parents to deal with slang. Our parents -- even their parents -- experienced their children declaring their own ways to communicate with one another. Slang, as part of the ongoing evolution of language, is a completely normal occurence. Some of that slang will even make it into mainstream communication. What our parents didn't have to deal with, however, was "text speak" -- slang taken to the extreme in written communication.
More than one teacher has lamented the use of text speak in emails from students. Just imagine an email filled with "u" for "you," "2" for "to" --- to an English teacher, no less. No matter the subject of the email, it's not appropriate communication for the situation!
Abbreviations, acronyms and substitutions
The abbreviations, acronyms and substitutions that help make up text speak are actually quite ingenious at times. Created to save precious character space when sending messages on cell phones and text message devices, they are handy for parents at times as well as kids. But when text speak/writing makes its way into other forms of written communication, it's time for parents to reiterate points about appropriate communication.
It may seem obvious to us as adults, but kids need reminders. How you write messages to your friends is different from how you write messages to others -- and parents and close family can be a gray area. When is it appropriate to use text speak in written communication? Well, that depends.
Formal, casual and informal
The ability to communicate formally with adults, including grandparents, extended family, family friends, teachers, potential employers and others, is critical to life success. Generally speaking, you communicate with these people more formally than you would friends, or even your parents. Text speak abbreviations and acronyms are not appropriate in communication with these people. As a parent, this is something to reiterate. These are people with whom to take extra care in communications. Double- and triple-check that the communication is in complete sentences, with correct spelling and puncutation. When a teenager understands this and engages in written communication accordingly, it shows maturity and respect, and she is more likely to get some respect in return.
Casual communication can happen with parents, siblings and others with whom a child is close, but again, text speak is generally off limits outside of actual text messages. While this group may be more tolerant of misspellings and less than perfect sentence structure, writing in a respectful way is a sign of general maturity and understanding. It is, however, a gray area.
Letting kids be kids
With friends, kids can go wild with the text speak. It's their way of communicating, much like verbal slang, and it's very informal. While it's helpful for parents to learn and understand text speak, letting kids communicate with one another in the manner in which they feel most comfortable shows a little respect for them. And when you show kids some respect in appropriate situations, you're likely to get some cooperation and respect when you talk about these issues.
Language, both verbal and written, is ever changing. New slang and jargon makes it's way into the mainstream on a regular basis and other words fall out of common use. Dictionaries are updated, and definitions are tweaked - but respectful, appropriate communication never goes out of style.?
Read more on deciphering kids' text messages: