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Although the use of cell phones among teenagers is not new, previous studies (Irvine, 2013; Baron, 2013; Crystal, 2008) provide valuable insights on how teenagers use their smartphones on a daily basis beyond the normal functions (Irvine, 2013). In other words, they explore all capabilities of smartphone functionalities to enhance their experiences with search smart devices. A recent study by Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that 78 percent of teenagers (12 to 17 years old) had cell phones (Irvine, 2013) and the number of continues to grow steadily.
Rainie, Rainie, and Wellman observe that daily life has become connected through endless e-mail messages and responses, continually arriving text messages, tweets and retweets, Facebook updates, pictures and videos to post and discuss” (Rainie, Rainie and Wellman, 2012), and teenagers have embraced this culture of a networked world through their smart communication devices. This study involved an interview with a teenager to reflect on how teenagers use their smartphones in everyday life. It explores texting and its impacts on real-life and online situations among teenagers. Given the abilities of smartphones to access the Internet and social media platforms, teenagers have turned their smart devices to tools of socialisation and communication in which texting is the most preferred mode of communication.
Communication forms and contents remain confined to mobile culture among teenagers. These forms and contents of communications could be socially undesirable behaviours such as bullying, joking, and gossiping and substandard abbreviations and texting, which find their way in academic writings and socialisation. This essay argues that the use of smartphones among teenagers has negatively affected their academic writings and social activities. First, it shows that the use of slangs and abbreviation is common in both real-life and online communication and socialisation among teenagers. Second, texting has affected academic writing skills among teenagers. Finally, texting also mars teenagers’ real-life and online social relationships.
How teenagers use their smartphones
Past studies (Irvine, 2013; Baron, 2013; Crystal, 2008) have shown that teenagers use their mobile phones in different ways. As a result, they have developed unique distinct mobile culture in their communications and other usages. For instance, some studies have linked mobile phones to youth culture of “texting, business activities via data services or motherhood because it allows the notion of shifting roles between work and home” (Lacohée, Wakeford and Pearson, 2003). Hence, it is important to make a connection between mobile phone activities and their social roles, functionality, and cultural practices of their users. The growing use of mobile phones among teenagers indicates that none of them would avoid the use of the gadget to communicate.
Texting, slangs, and abbreviations
Teenagers send text messages than any other people who use mobile phones. This is a daily routine, which involves a circle of friends. According to the respondent, he texts his “friends and family several times a day”. In addition, the respondent noted that he is eager to communicate with his teachers and coaches. Texting defines how teenagers use their smartphones and other mobile devices for communication. He notes that texting is a simple form of communication. The respondent states, “I like texting because sometimes I may not be at place where I can receive or talk on the phone and we use abbreviations like LOL with my friends to mean laughing out loud”. However, he states that “am not sure if it affects my academic writing or real-life communication”.
Teenagers prefer texting because of its immediacy. They can avoid long conversations, which are common in phone calls. The respondent noted that texting helps him to avoid a waste time because of use of slangs and abbreviations. Still, text messaging was a convenient form of communication because people rarely miss text messages delivered in their phones (Porath, 2011).
Vast amounts of online communications based on abbreviation, slangs, and other informal styles have shown themselves on real-life communications among teenagers, especially in formal situations. The respondents states that, “sometimes I use informal voice in real-life situations because I tend to write the same way I speak”. Moreover, “when I write fast, I may confuse numbers and words, for example, ‘2’ instead of ‘to’, but such mistakes are rare because I check for errors before I submit my work”. From the respondent’s statements, one can observe that online texts and talks have affected real-life and formal communications. While teenagers consider online writing as social and fan, they forget and may not differentiate between slang words in real-life writing.
There is a significant growth in the number of teenagers, who send text messages to their friends as most of them acquire mobile phones. Texting remains an important form of communication among teenagers. Crystal observes that texting is a “startling modern phenomenon, one that ‘has gripped the imagination of the UK in a short space of time and already has its own language, its own etiquette, and its own humour” (Crystal, 2008). Initially, text messaging was not considered as a major form of communication among people. In fact, people did not believe that text messaging could replace voice messages in any way. Crystal noted that people originally regarded text messaging as a method of commercial communication and as an extension of the voice service in the mobile phone industry (Crystal, 2008).
From the doctors’ point of view, texting with smartphones or any other mobile devices have led some users to addiction. Doctors see too much texting as an emerging addiction due to the use of modern technologies. They have raised concerns that extreme texting is responsible for a lack of face-to-face personal interactions, isolation, lack of adequate sleep, poor eating habits, and avoidance of some routine chores. Thus, they have concluded that texting has emerged as a developing challenge for parents and educators, who interact with teenagers frequently. In addition, this problem also extends to those who may require face-to-face interaction with teenagers. In other words, teenagers may substitute important face-to-face meetings with their smartphones by texting, sending e-mails, or calling. While many learning institutions are embracing learning on smart mobile devices, they must also recognise risk factors associated with them.
Academic writing styles and texting
The respondents notes, “It is like learning to use two languages in appropriate contexts”. This happens because the language or writing styles that teenagers use in texting affect their academic writings. Hence, it is fundamental for teenagers to note the variations in social writing and academic writing styles. On this note, the essay argues that teenagers spend time online communications, which put them at risks of transferring informal written communication styles, slangs, sub-standard abbreviations, and nonstandard orthography to the academic writings. As a result, they would not be able to writing sophisticated academic texts. This situation puts responsibilities on teachers to ensure that teenagers use appropriate writing styles in their academic works. Moreover, they have to be careful as many younger people start to use smartphones because the use of improper languages and writing will increase schools too.
The respondent notes, “It is not like am using ‘LOL’ (laugh out loud) in my academic work, but he cites problems associated with improper spellings, capitalisation of words, and punctuations. For instance, the respondent claims that most common words or letters are ‘i’, ‘u’, and ‘r’, which represent ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘are’ respectively.
Although one can recognise different types of writing or communication under code switching, it is improper for students to adopt their online ‘texting lingo’ in formal academic writings. Code switching in communication skills is an important aspect that students should develop. However, they must also understand their usages and suitability within a given context. Teachers must help learners to develop skills for effective switching of codes. Students can derive great advantages if they learn to retain online text lingo and communication skills within the online context and apply formal academic writing, speaking, and reading skills within academic contexts.
Given these impacts of smartphone texting on formal academic writings, teachers must engage learners in thorough proofreading of their texts in order to eliminate elements of texting languages in their works. Moreover, students require constant reminders and conscious efforts to avoid texting languages in their academic texts. The respondent notes that even personal pronouns affect his academic works when he writes, “I would” rather the correct third-person context. This happens because of too much texting through smartphones.
Socialisation and texting
The respondent asserted that his smartphone was a great tool in his social life. He uses the phone to interact with others, get new friends through social media networks, create a sense of belonging, and reinforce his social networks. Online socialisation relies on informal written language in which teenagers concentrate on contents rather than proper formats and standard language use.
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The essay argues that one can observe weaknesses among teenagers in communication as they socialise due to declining standards of communication because of use of smartphones to text. In addition, teenagers avoid face-to-face communications to engage in texting. This is a virtual form of socialisation, which cannot replace benefits of face-to-face interaction. Hence, it only mars socialisation among teenagers.
Jensen observes that “what is mobile about cell phones and other current mobile media are new ranges of contexts in which personally meaningful and socially consequential interactions become possible” (Jensen, 2013). Communication rises beyond time and space barriers because of technologies in order to maintain social connections. Smartphone has proved to be an effective tool for such purposes. However, one must recognise that the new media cannot act independently to create social relationships. Instead, people use such technologies to create important links for maintaining relationships. The discourse of communication acts as a bond that sustains social links over time and space.
One may wonder what is new about a smartphone and other mobile communication devices (Humphreys, 2013). These gadgets have integrated themselves into everyday lives of their users. As a result, they have “increasingly synchronised, localised, and individualised formats” (Jensen, 2013) and various ways of communications among users. It is important to recognise that a particular communication gadget or technology may have little relevance in communication. On the contrary, the social aspect of a smartphone makes it unique among users, who use it to enhance their social relations and activities. Smartphone acts as a channel of conveying meaningful and important social interaction among people, who are physically far but still manage to maintain a sense of social connection. Jensen notes that in “mobile communication, entire configurations of social relations move about at an accelerated pace” (Jensen, 2013).
Other social uses
According the respondent, smartphones have also found other uses, which may not be pleasant but equally interesting to a given social circle. Teenage bullying, conflicts, jokes, gossips, and other forms of arguments have found their way to social media networks through smartphones. Teenagers have used their social media accounts, such as Facebook, Twitter, and others to spread such social phenomena and text statements they cannot utter in face-to-face communication. While adults may consider such occurrences as nuisance and out of social order, teenagers regard them as social dramas and fan of their lives, which serve the basis of rapid texting by use of slangs, abbreviations, and other informal styles of communication.
The essay has argued that the mobile culture of texting among teenagers has led to some negative outcomes in social life, real-life situations, and academic performances. These outcomes are evident in rampant usages of slangs, abbreviations, and other informal writing styles in both online and real-life situations. Educators have also noted some influences of text lingo in formal academic writings among their students. They note that code switching has affected academic writings because students tend to forget appropriate contexts of informal writings. Finally, teenagers choose to text rather than engage in face-to-face interaction and socialisation. This mars their abilities to socialise with others effectively. The responsibility is on teachers and parents to ensure effective writing among teenagers in their academic, social, and real-life communication.
Baron, N. S. (2013). Do mobile technologies reshape speaking, writing, or reading? Mobile Media & Communication, 1(1), 134-140. Web.
Crystal, D. (2008). Texting. ELT Journal, 62(1), 77-83. Web.
Humphreys, L. (2013). Mobile social media: Future challenges and opportunities. Mobile Media & Communication, 1(1), 20-25. Web.
Irvine, M. (2013). Teenagers Increasingly Use Smartphones To Access The Web: Report. Web.
Jensen, K. B. (2013). What’s mobile in mobile communication? Mobile Media & Communication, vol. 1(1), 26–31. Web.
Lacohée, H., Wakeford, N., and Pearson, I. (2003). A social history of the mobile telephone with a view of its future. BT Technology Journal, 21(3), 203-211.
Porath, S. (2011). Text Messaging and Teenagers: A Review of the Literature. Journal of the Research Center for Educational Technology, 7(2), 87.
Rainie, H., Rainie, L., and Wellman, B. (2012). Networked: The New Social Operating System. Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press.
For how long have you owned a smartphone?
Ans: more than 3 years, I guess.
How do you use your smartphone?
Ans: I use my phone mainly for texting. However, I use it for other things too, for example, calling friends, search for information about anything am interested in like sports, news update, subjects at school, and even interesting entertainment gossips. Sometimes I use my phone to listen to music, download short movies and games. I also socialise and interact with my friends through my smartphone.
Any other use? Yes. Socialisation through Facebook, I get many updates about my friends and the stuff they do. My instant messaging service is good for chitchats, and we talk about so and so and what they do
How often do you use your phone to perform activities you have mentioned in question two?
Ans: everyday am with my phone. I text a lot and like texting because it is cheap and easy to reach friends who are busy and am on like on Facebook all the time. I can choose to respond immediately or not because text messages display the sender. I like texting because sometimes I may not be at place where I can receive or talk on the phone and we use abbreviations like LOL with my friends to mean laughing out loud”.
Let me interrupt you a bit; have you ever considered life without a smartphone?
Ans: no that would be impossible because it’s ever in my hands. In fact, my Mum says am addicted, but I don’t think so.
You mentioned that you use your phone to text your friends, please could mention if you use formal or informal writings
Ans: I text using regular online language – slangs, abbreviations, and informal writings because they are short and economical, and my friends understand them too
Question: Could you mention the common times you use in your texting?
Ans: They are many: ‘i’, ‘u’, and ‘r’, which represent ‘I’, ‘you’, and ‘are’, “when I write fast, I may confuse numbers and words, for example, ‘2’ instead of ‘to’
What are your parental concerns regarding your smartphone habits?
Ans: At first, they were a bit concerned, but that as changed because they believe that I’m using my smartphone responsibly. They have also expressed concerns that it may affect my writing abilities or English performances
Do you believe that the use of smartphone affects your language use or performances at school?
Ans: I have noted some use of slang while talking or writing, but I don’t use them in academic writings. It is a culture, which I have attempted to avoid when am in school.
Do you use smart mobile devices in learning at your school?
Ans: yes, out teachers sometimes use iPads and tablets for instructions
What do you consider as negative outcomes from your smartphone habits?
Ans: sometimes we joke about people and laugh about stuff. My friends refer to it as smart bullying. I also think that I spend much time on the phone, especially during weekends, but am not sure if it affects my academic writing or real-life communication.
What are your thoughts on teenage mobile culture?
Ans: Teenagers have increased the use of smartphones than before because most of them nowadays replace their old phones with smart ones. They socialise much and want to stay connected even late at night. Smartphone is like a new order for teenagers, but it may affect our habits if we do not use it much.