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There has always been a disconnect between parents and children. Children choose to believe that their parents are so old they can't remember what it was like to be a kid, while parents feel that their children don’t understand the concept of hardship.
The same is true for language. Teens have always created their own slang, words that could be used as code for things they didn’t want their parents to know about, or simply words that spoke to their generation, made up or real. It might be viewed as just another way that teens choose to distance themselves from their parents or of asserting their independence. Or it just may be that some words are thought of a slightly dangerous or “cool”.

Today’s teens have invented a whole new language centered around online communication, which allows teens to communicate with one another via the internet or cell phone using fewer letters as a sort of “shortcut” form of communication. Most parents are in the dark as to what the incomprehensible symbols, letters and numbers mean, and kids are capitalizing on this fact. Kids are able to carry on entire conversations via a keyboard with parents none the wiser as to the content of their communication.

While most of the time text speak is innocent fun, in some cases this code speak is used to hide activity that would alarm parents if they were able to understand what their children were discussing. The following are some examples:

The Texting World- Kids Know it All

  • MOS= mother over shoulder
  • 420= smoking or buying marijuana
  • WTF= what the f***
  • 6y= sexy
  • A/S/L= age/sex/location
  • BCOY= big crush on you
  • OLL= online love
  • PRON= pornography
  • RUMOF= are you male or female
  • X= kiss
  • LMFR= let’s meet for real
  • cu46= see you for sex
  • gnoc= get naked on camera

These are but a few examples of how language can be broken down into seemingly incomprehensible phrases that those in the know (our kids) can use to convey messages, leaving the rest of us (parents) in the dark. Is texting always a bad thing? Of course not. However, there may be times when the language is used to cover up things that your kids would rather you didn’t know about.

There seems to be two schools of thought in regards to texting. Some parents believe that texting between kids is simply an alternate form of communication and choose to ignore the fact that this form of communication may be used to plan or talk about illicit activity. Others fervently believe that parents have a right to know what their kids are talking about, and to whom they are speaking or texting, especially if they are footing the bill for unlimited texting.

This is nothing new- in days of old, parents argued whether reading their children’s diary was considered bad form, an outright invasion of privacy. It is normal for children, and teens especially, to guard their privacy zealously and expect parents to respect their right to privacy. Should this be the case when there is a concern that this privacy may be disguising dangerous activities? This is the question that concerns many parents of teens these days.

What should parents do if they don't understand the language of their children?

What can parents do when faced with the fact that their kids are spending an inordinate amount of time texting their friends, and are using a language that most parents simply don’t get? Most experts would agree that communication is important: talk to your teens about all of the things that concern parents, things that were concerning even before the advent of texting such as giving out personal information to strangers, using drugs and alcohol and bullying- which happens online much of the time these days. Make certain that your kids are aware of the dangers that are out there, and take an interest in their friends and activities. Will taking an interest in your children’s online lives guarantee that they will remain safe? Obviously not, but paying attention to your children’s online activities may prevent them from getting into trouble. Putting a certain amount of restrictions on their online activities is also a good idea. Let them know that breaking your rules may cause them to lose texting or computer privileges and they may be a little more circumspect about their activities online.

Today’s technical world has changed the way we communicate with each other. Where we once wrote personal letters or spoke on the telephone, we can now talk in real time as much and as long as we want with the brush of a keystroke. Today’s children are technologically advanced and have grown up with this new technology at their fingertips. It’s little wonder that they have found a way to use this technology to their advantage to talk to each other about the things that are important to them. They can’t be faulted for using what is readily available to discuss things that many of us would rather not know they are thinking, let alone talking, about.
What is worrisome is that this new technology seems to have opened up the world to our children in ways that many of us never dreamed possible. While this has many positive outcomes, there are also some inherent dangers. Your child may be more readily exposed to some things at an earlier age than they might have been in the past. In addition, predators have flourished in the invisible online world, where you can pretend to be anyone you want. These are the facts that worry many parents and keep them awake at night. For most children, text speak may be viewed as a shared language that is no more than a shorthand method of communication; for others, texting opens up a world they are ill-prepared for.

Whatever your views on children and texting/online communication, being aware of the dangers out there will help you prepare your child for some of the dangers present in the world today.