Survey: Social Media Makes Kids Better Writers

By  |  Friday, December 4, 2009 at 5:06 pm

The debate over whether computers are making kids dumb was reignited today with a BBC report about a survey which concluded that children who use technology may be better writers.

The survey was conducted by the UK’s National Literacy Trust with a sample size of 3,001 school children aged nine and showed that 16. 24% had their own blog, 82% sent text messages at least once a month, and 73% used instant messaging services, according to the BBC’s report.

Students who used social networking or blogged trumped their less tech-savvy counterparts in writing skills–by their own assessment. 61% of the bloggers and 56% of the social networkers rated their writing as “good” or “very good,” while only 47% of students who performed neither activity felt the same way. Almost all of the students still used pen and paper in the classroom.

Jonathan Douglas, director of the National Literacy Trust, told BBC News. “Engagement with online technology drives their enthusiasm for writing short stories, letters, song lyrics or diaries.”

I do trust that assessment (though the survey itself is lacking). Those students practice writing more often, and share their enthusiasm with their friends. Peer review does lead to better writing. But I would also like to see any cross tabs that detail their income levels, and whether their parents (or caregivers) were college educated.

We’ve all heard about the digital divide, where lower income students lack Internet access. This could be just another example of it manifesting itself. Though, direction from teachers and parents still matters a great deal.

We’ve also heard the story about the student who handed in a paper written entirely in SMS shorthand. That is an example of a student that was given proper direction about what is the appropriate use of that technology. The National Literacy Trust acknowledged that was an area that needed attention.

Technology can cut both ways, as another study, published in 2005, concluded that it was detrimental to learning. The latter study included 100,000 pupils in 31 countries.



2 Comments For This Post

  1. Liz L. Says:

    My initial reaction was that it is tough to draw any conclusions from a study that is based on self-assessment, yet there is truth to the fact that the more both children and adults write, the more we sharpen our communication abilities and literacy. Engaging in language activities is generally a great thing for children, as is the utilization of vital digital technologies that will undoubtedly be vital to their adult lives. I am not yet a parent, and I am not a teacher in a K-12 school, so perhaps I am not giving enough consideration to the dangers of both having kids online (questionable content), and unsupervised activities (like texting) that can both distract from academics. After all, I know the mother of a four-year-old who is already researching how to handle the “sex-ting” issue. But in terms of the Digital Divide, it is clear that the kids who can have regular access to computers and the internet (whether at home or at school) are at a huge advantage. The Washington Post article about how kids are stressed to complete classwork without the same availability of technology is a pretty interesting read, and relates directly ( It is great to see that as a society we are paying a greater amount of attention to this issue…hopefully for both children and adults.

  2. Jsparco Says:

    This is very surprising, most of the text I see children writing on social networks use the "l33t speak" lingo. LOL, BFF, HF, G2G, etc. doesn't seem to be like an appropriate use of the English language. If they were writing correctly, as with anything with practice you would assume they get better. direct response media has shown similar results.

1 Trackbacks For This Post

  1. No They Aren’t “Better Writers” « WiredPen Says:

    […] Other sinners: The Read-Write-Web: Researchers Say the Social Web Improves Kids’ Literacy (Geeks Say ‘Duh’) and Technologizer: Survey: Social Media Makes Kids Better Writers. […]