Nearly every teen uses instant chat, text messaging, or some sort of online social network to keep in touch with friends. But ask a wired teen whether e-mail and other types of electronic communication can be considered the act of "writing," and the answer is likely "no."
A new study released Thursday from the Pew Internet & American Life Project and the National Commission on Writing showed that the majority of U.S. teens, or 60 percent of those surveyed, do not view electronic texts as writing.
Despite that, at least 64 percent of kids age 12 to 17 admit that they incorporate, often accidentally, some informal writing styles from digital communication (e.g., emoticons, "LOL" acronyms, and bad punctuation) into their writing for school.
Apart from their under-classification of digital text, 86 percent of teens consider good writing skills essential to their future success. That's backed up by what their parents believe, too. Eight in 10 parents think that good writing skills are more important now than they were 20 years ago.
All teens write at least some for school, but 93 percent of kids surveyed said that they write for themselves outside of school.
"There is clearly a big gap in the minds of teenagers between the 'real' writing they do for school and the texts they compose for their friends," Amanda Lenhart, co-author of the Pew report, said in a statement. "Yet, it is also clear that writing holds a central place in the lives of teens and in their vision about the skills they need for the future."
Other findings from the study:
--57 percent of teens say they revise and edit more when they write using a computer.
--63 percent of teens say using computers to write makes no difference in the quality of the writing they produce.
To compile its data, Pew interviewed 700 kids by phone last fall, and conducted several focus groups in various U.S. cities last summer. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.