IT’S FASHIONABLE: CHILDREN’S PERCEPTIONS OF THE INFLUENCE OF LANGUAGE USE ON SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKS ON THEIR ACADEMIC LANGUAGE AND FUTURE IDENTITY IN SOUTHERN GHANA
Social media networks have become the most recent media to have gained prominence in the wake of the 21st Century, and they are now the de facto of global communication in information delivery in the use of the internet and mobile devices. One of the most important characteristics of this novelty is the fascinating transformation in the language component of communication; particularly, the novel communicative symbols including vowel-free words, for example ‘txtng’(Crystal, 2008). The social media communication in its extensive and varied reach is destabilizingthe strength in children’s use of Standard English in academic discourse. This study sought to explore children’s perceptions of the influence of social media language on their academiclanguage. Three schools were conveniently selected from three districts. Children between ages 12 and 17 years were purposively selected and 60 of them randomly sampled for the study. Interviews and questionnaire were the main instruments for data collection. The findings showed that although the participants were from different backgrounds, they identified the same lexical orthographic creations as a means by which they communicate on social media. Also, children view social media language (SML) as a language used purposely on social media and thus sound fashionable. Interestingly, the participants revealed that the risk discourse rate vis a vis academic language is negligible. It was also found that in spite of its supposedly negative influence on their future academic language, participants experiences with social media will enhance their cognitive development, build their self-confidence and shape their social identity. Conclusions drawn from this study indicate that children may either not be aware of the long term effects of the use of language deviations on their Standard English or they are intentionally refusing to acknowledge the dangers these unconventionalities may pose on their academic language. It is therefore recommended that children should be well educated on the advantages and disadvantages in the use of social media to meet the changing world.