Setting a good example – Is there a link between poor English and mental health in teens?

It’s been a few days since I last posted. Some of this was for good reasons in that I have been chatting in real-time with friends and while still dependent on the internet for communication right now, real people will always come first for me before writing a blog. Secondly, I’ve been struggling with my health again.

The short version is that I was notified on Monday that the results of the sleep study were quite different to what I had been told, in the follow-up appointment shortly afterwards. My family doctor is now investigating to find out exactly what happened and what the next steps are. Regardless, it was quite a knock to hear that I do have yet another severe issue that needs treating, but that probably isn’t the cause of my breathing issues. It’s also quite likely to have been caused as a side effect of some of the medication I’m on which is really demoralising. Regardless, I’m frustrated with still not knowing and having fallen down yet another rabbit hole in the path towards finding out.

However, over these last few days I am finding that one of my all-time bugs seems to have become even more prevalent. The inappropriate use of grammar and spelling seems to have become acceptable in society. Not just with teens using ‘text speak’ to apply for jobs but with professionals, including educators.

When did it become acceptable for those who do know better, to not set a good example?

It started for me with movies using all lower case for proper names. I hated it. How are children meant to learn to write their name using the appropriate upper case and lower case letters if the examples all around them are wrong?

Next for me was frustration with captions all being in upper case. This is incredibly difficult to read in comparison to proper case. There’s a reason that block capitals have become known as SHOUTING in text speak!

When I looked into that one I was told that it’s faster for the captioners to use all upper case. I guess that means that movie & tv show makers will accommodate disabilities and caption as required, but they’re not going to spend a moment longer doing so than absolutely necessary!

More recently, I’ve seen photographs of bulletin boards beautifully set up for the start of the new school year and every word of the title is capitalised rather than using the more appropriate title, or sentence case.

There’s a local Facebook group, administered by a professional writer no less, who uses the wrong “your” in the title for the group. When asked why, they responded that it was deliberate!

We know that everything that we do as adults is watched and mimicked by children. How many times has a child repeated something that you really shouldn’t have said, at the most inappropriate time?

Yet we ignore this in the language that we surround them with. We constantly expose them to poor grammar and spelling and wonder why so many children are struggling with language in school.

I had thought that at least educators would be setting a good example. Apparently I was wrong. They don’t see the need either.

I don’t understand it.

I’m not asking for perfection. Just for the basic rules at least to be followed.

When I mention this issue to others they seem to feel that I’m being pedantic, and archaic.

Yet, look at the best-selling authors! Look at the students in class who are doing well and getting top grades, regardless of subject.

These are not the ones being lazy with spelling and grammar. They’re the ones that write well.

Why? Why is it so important? Why do they become the best-selling authors, the top students?

It’s simple – they make communication easier. It’s easier to read prose that’s written using the appropriate case and that’s spelled well. It’s easier to understand what an author means when they use good grammar. As a reader you’re not left trying to work out what they meant. You know.

So many relationships break down due to poor communication. Misunderstandings, and confusion arise when we are not clear in what we mean.

So I challenge you as adults, I challenge you as educators whether as formal teachers or as parents and role models in other areas of life: Step up! Set a good example in everything that you write. Make no excuses. Just improve the example that you set.

In this day of text speak and instant gratification it’s time that we remember that we are the examples to this next generation, and rather than join them in an attempt to assimilate, stand fast for good grammar, spelling and punctuation!

I wonder how much less depression and anxiety we would be seeing in High Schools if cell phones and the internet were banned, and communication had to be in person or written out fully?

Looking at the anecdotal evidence from countries without such technologies I suspect that our youth mental health would greatly improve.

Could the solution be as simple as returning to core values in English?

If High School students had to actually write extensive prose rather than the increasing tendency to use Prezi or other multi-media methods to communicate would their abilities to communicate  their true feelings for class assignments improve? It’s easy to hide behind a social media presentation. It’s much harder to do so behind a piece of first person writing.

It’s a thought!

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