Writing thoughtfully in a digital age

March 17, 2011 at 7:06 pm Leave a comment

encouraging kids to write thoughtfully

Encourage your kids to practice writing by sending letters or keeping a journal.

We all try to keep our kids offline for as long as possible, but eventually it happens. Facebook status updates, text messaging, Twitter… today’s children are growing up in a 140-character world. The shift in communication has inevitably sparked some debate around whether this abbreviated dialogue is helping or hindering the development of storytelling, writing and literacy skills in children.

It is difficult to believe that children are becoming better writers and readers when single letters (“u,” “r”) stand for words, and when a few letters (BRB, TTYL,) mean complete phrases. These shortcuts are also taking the nuance out of their communication – everyone needs to use the same abbreviations or they lose their meaning. 

It would be pointless to try to force your child to write in complete words or sentences when they communicate online or by text message. Not only would it be near impossible, there is some value to a character or word limit. It forces us to express our thoughts clearly and concisely, which is often the most difficult part about writing. Parents should strive to find a balance between the two extremes. Here are a few things you can do to keep your child writing thoughtfully:

Have her write letters           

  • Instead of catching up with friends and family via e-mail, have your child write letters to extended family, friends who attend different schools and even teachers. While it is easy to write “how r u? i miss u,” when sending an e-mail, your child is unlikely to use such abbreviations when handwriting a letter.

Make personalized cards

  • Avoid buying greeting, birthday and thank you cards from the drugstore and have your child create her own personalized cards. Even if she just writes a sentence or two on each card, it requires much more thought than simply penning a signature.

Encourage her to keep a journal

  • Journal writing is a great in-between to writing in school and texting or Tweeting. Journal writing allows your child to write in an informal, conversational tone while still developing compete thoughts and sentences. She won’t have any teacher specified or character count related restrictions. Plus, while your child will be developing writing skills, it won’t feel like work.

Pose questions that require thoughtful answers

  • Before she can spit out an answer, tell your child to really think about the question and have her write down her response. Questions can be silly (“If you turned into an animal for a day, what would you be and what would you do?”) or serious (“If you could do one thing to make the world better, what would it be and why?”). Even better, write down your own answer to the question and take turns reading aloud your answers. Not only will hearing her own writing help your child become a better writer, you’ll have fun learning about each other.

Check back for tips on leveraging tools like Twitter to help your kids write intelligently while sticking to 140 characters.

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