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Increase in online chatting has adverse effects on reading skills worldwide

The worldwide deterioration of reading skills due to the increase in online chatting is continuing per country. This is the conclusion of a study by researcher Hans Luyten from the University of Twente. He studied the data from the international PISA-surveys (Programme for International Student Assessment) in 2009 and 2018 in 63 countries. This was part of a large-scale comparative research study conducted under the auspices of the OESO. During that period, online chatting increased significantly in almost every country, but the rate of increase varied considerably from country to country. In Japan, for example, the percentage of students chatting daily increased from 9% to 85%, whereas the increase in Russia was much lower (from 42% to 58%).

In recent decades, the rise of information and communication technology (ICT) has greatly influenced the lives of people around the world. Gradually we also started to read more and more on a screen, while a few decades ago we still read everything in paper form. The rise of online chatting was a remarkable development in the first 20 years of the 21st century. There is a risk that digital media can encourage superficial reading strategies, such as scanning, skimming, and browsing, at the expense of more time-consuming strategies that allow for deeper understanding.

The research shows a strong correlation between the country-by-country increase in online chatting among 15-year-olds and the country-by-country decline in both reading skills and awareness of helpful reading strategies. The rise in online chat is the cause of a loss of about 25 score points on the PISA reading scale. Such a drop implies that an average student (who would have previously scored at the 50th percentile) would drop to the 40th percentile.

“While it is important to recognise the adverse effects of online chatting, efforts to reduce this phenomenon seem unrealistic and pointless. Banning online chatting to improve reading skills is just as radical as promoting a return to poverty to rid the world of obesity and other wealth-related health problems,” according to Hans Luyten.

The results suggest that a focus on mastering useful reading strategies in reading education is necessary to maintain reading skills. The increased chatting in 2009-2018 has undeniably coincided with a declining awareness of such strategies. It seems that students need more support and stimulation than before to gain their awareness and mastery of useful reading strategies.

Research

This research was conducted by Hans Luyten at the BMS Faculty, LTD (Learning, Data analytics and Technology) department.

drs. J.G.M. van den Elshout (Janneke)
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