Young people write more than we think

Young people write more than we think

Parents and specialists are concerned that young people have lost their taste for letters. Yet a French survey claims that teenagers continue to engage in different forms of writing, despite the proliferation of screens in their lives.

Some 1,500 French people aged between 14 and 18 were interviewed for the purposes of this major study by the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education, which combines a quantitative analysis and a qualitative survey. Almost all of them have more or less regular writing activity (92%). In detail, 59% say they write every day or almost every day, while a third say they do it occasionally.

It is interesting to note that the young people interviewed sometimes have a distorted perception of their editorial practices. Boys, in particular, are reluctant to describe themselves as writers when they are not writing fiction texts. However, writing is not limited to texts of a fictional nature. This also includes to-do lists, greeting cards, letters, song lyrics, comic strips or video frames.

However, the young people interviewed have a restrictive vision of what writing is. They often associate it with the school setting, which explains why a large number of them attribute a utilitarian function to it. Nine out of ten adolescents believe that writing serves, above all, to succeed in school or in professional life. They all say that this activity facilitates the memorization process.

If several surveys have shown that French adolescents are creative by nature, young people in France struggle to see writing as a tool for creativity. A third of respondents are even reluctant to recognize this role or reject it. This is all the more surprising since 39% of young people occasionally or regularly write song or rap lyrics, and 43% write stories or fan fiction. But, generally speaking, French people aged 14 to 18 remain convinced of the usefulness of this activity.

A thoughtful relationship to writing

And this, whether it is done by hand or on a digital medium. Although they spend more and more time in front of a screen, young people continue to value handwriting. 72% think that it allows you to memorize information better than writing on a computer or laptop, and 53% believe that it allows you to see your mistakes better. These figures show that the war between pens and screens does not seem to be a reality among young people. Note also that adolescents who say they write a lot on social networks are not limited to digital tools. Thus, the 14-18 year olds who send the most DMs (private messages) are also those who write the most handwritten messages for their friends.

Everything suggests that young French people are more nuanced and thoughtful than it seems in their editorial practices. As proof, they often write drafts and very frequently use the “Notes” application on their smartphones, to put their thoughts in order before considering sharing them with others. This contradicts the received idea that writing is about spontaneity and impulse.

Although the conclusions of this study are rather positive, they nevertheless highlight significant differences in the writing practices of boys and girls. The latter tend to engage in this activity more than their male counterparts. More of them assign diverse functions to writing (organizational, playful, intimate, emotional). Conversely, many boys believe that writing is useless.

The authors of this report from the National Institute of Youth and Popular Education believe that schools have a role to play in encouraging writing practices among adolescents, including outside the school setting. “(The survey does not intend to reveal a pool of potential writers, of writers who are always qualitatively efficient, nor to deny the difficulties of complex learning. On the other hand, it aims to highlight positive elements which can help mediators to continue their action with adolescents, by better understanding their practices – including self-taught ones – their appetites and their expectations.“, they write.