We already know texting while driving is bad, but new research seems to indicate that even before kids are old enough to get behind the wheel, texting might have another downfall: it’s making their grammar worse.

Middle school students tend to use shortcuts or “techspeak” while texting — for example, “great” becomes “gr8″ and “would” is changed to “wud,” and so on. If it stayed within the realm of texting, that would be one thing, but apparently it’s creeping into the kids’ non-digital world as well.

Researcher Drew Cingel from Northwestern gave a group of tweens a grammar test, and then surveyed them on their texting habits. The results showed a link between poor grammar scores and frequent texting, and found that the more tech-speak texts the kids sent and received, the lower their grammar scores were.

In addition, the students seemed to be influenced by the grammatically incorrect messages sent by their friends and family.

“In other words, if you send your kid a lot of texts with word adaptations, then he or she will probably imitate it,” said S. Shyam Sundar, a Penn State communications professor who worked with Cingel. “These adaptations could affect their offline language skills that are important to language development and grammar skills, as well.”

[LiveScience]