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UK children who blog or share their lives on social networking sites are better writers than those who don't.

Or at least they think they are.

A new study by the National Literacy Trust surveyed 3,001 English and Scottish students ages 9 through 16 and discovered that not only do wee bloggers enjoy writing more than their non-bloggophiliac peers by a 57 to 40 per cent margin, but they're also more confident about their writing skills.

And that love of linguistic self-expression isn't limited to adolescent self-absorption. Bloggers also preferred writing to family and friends more than non-bloggers did, 79 to 55 per cent.

But this affection for writing appears to be determined by sex. Only 38 per cent of boys enjoy writing, compared with 52 per cent of girls. More boys found writing to be "boring" than girls as well: 57 versus 41 per cent. Boys also thought that writing was more for girls than boys - 60 versus 43 per cent - which may be one reason why girls were more likely to have blogs than boys: 33 versus 18 per cent.

But what kids meant by "writing" is a bit amorphous. The students' writing experiences included sending text messages (82 per cent), sending AIM or MSN instant messages (73 per cent), and adding comments on social-networking sites (63 per cent) - hardly vehicles for the next Nabokov or Henry James.

Hidden in the mountains of data in the 52-page report (PDF) are a few discomfiting stats. For example, only 77 per cent of the students wrote notes or answers in class or for homework "at least once a month." Call us old-fashioned, but if the UK school system requires only 77 per cent of its students to write a homework assignment at least once a month, something is quite amiss, indeed.

Then there's the less-than-uplifting information that many of the students thought they were good writers because they knew how to type (36 per cent) or spell (33 per cent). Couple those stats with the fact that 23 per cent thought they were poor writers because they were "not very good at writing neatly," and it seems that UK students' definition of good writing may induce E.B. White to spin a bit in his current Brooklin, Maine resting place. ®

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