Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Texting is retarding our teens

It's true! It must be, because a neuroscientist is saying it's true. In this article by Michael Deacon from The Daily Telegraph, Baroness Greenfield is reported as blaming young people's alleged short attention spans on the brevity of text messaging. Deacon himself has strong views about texting, telling us that "If everyone in the world keeps texting, we'll all become as mentally stunted as each other, and so nobody will even notice that there's been a narrowing of the human attention span."

And in this piece from The Daily Mail, Greenfield offers more detail about her opinions. In one interesting part of it she says:
I believe that if the young brain is exposed from the outset to a world of instant action and reaction with the press of a key, such rapid interchanges might accustom the brain to operate over the same timescales.
The young brain, particularly until the age of ten, is incredibly impressionable. It is without the yardsticks we gain on our way to adulthood and against which we measure information. The young brain simply absorbs information and is shaped by it.
That's why, if a child learns to express themselves through text messaging - and at the same time reads less, writes less and communicates face-to-face less often - there is a case for questioning how it will impact not only on the way they communicate in later life, but also on the way their brain matures.
So, what do you think? Can you think at all? Have you been exposed to so much text messaging and such short, undeveloped fragments of language that you can't express yourself in complex sentences any more? Have you even read this far?
I'd be interested what readers of this blog have to say on this issue, partly because blogs are about sharing ideas and learning collaboratively, but also because at the end of next year many of you will be taking ENGA3 in which you'll have to think about, analyse and critique language debates such as this one.
 Greenfield, in the Daily Mail, uses the metaphor of language being "eroded" by texting, eaten away, reduced in some way. It's a metaphor that will soon be familiar to A2 students as we look at models of language change and arguments about such change - prescriptive and descriptive - and how we can explore where English is heading.
Along with ENGA3, you'll also be doing ENGA4 in which you'll need to write a creative piece about one of the topics you've studied for ENGA3. So, the Michael Deacon article in the Telegraph or the Baroness Greenfield one in the Mail can be really helpful style models for how critics of language change structure and express their ideas and arguments.

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