The effect of text messaging on 9- and 10-year-old children's reading, spelling and phonological processing skills


  • All authors were based in the Psychology Department, Coventry University. Emma Jackson is now based in the Psychology Department, University of Worcester. Lucy Wilde is now based in the School of Psychology, University of Birmingham.

Clare Wood, Psychology Department, Coventry University, Priory Street, Coventry CV1 5FB, UK. Email:


This paper reports on an intervention study that considered the impact of text messaging on 9- to 10-year-old children's literacy skills. One hundred and fourteen children who had never owned a mobile phone before were recruited and randomly allocated to either the intervention or control conditions. All children were pre- and post-tested on a range of reading, spelling and phonological awareness measures. Children in the intervention group were given access to a mobile phone (enabled for text messaging only) for weekends and during half-term break for a 10-week period. It was found that there were no significant differences between the two groups of children in terms of their literacy attainment during that period. However, within the mobile phone group, there was evidence that use of text abbreviations was positively related to gains in literacy skills. Moreover, after controlling for individual differences in IQ, and the children's performance at pre-test, textism usage was able to account for a significant amount of variance in post-test spelling scores. These results show that text messaging does not adversely affect the development of literacy skills within this age group, and that the children's use of textisms when text messaging is positively related to improvement in literacy skills, especially spelling.