A few years ago, I spent a week with my sister and her kids. While I was there, I noticed that her tween-aged boys picked up some of my lingo. Because I spend a lot of time on my computer and my phone, I often speak in acronyms. It never occurred to me they didn’t know what I was saying. Finally, my sister pulled me aside and asked me, “What is OMG?”
It might seem simple enough to those of us who use computers or texting a lot, but for those of us who don’t, it can be confusing. And the hardest part is, new acronyms are created everyday. There are whole websites created just to help those of us who aren’t “in the know” figure out what is really being said. Most acronyms used in chat are just shorter ways to type common phrases. For example, BRB is be right back. But how many of you know what “IKR” is?
When I was in college, a friend of mine spent a lot of time chatting with her boyfriend over the Internet. He was often away and at that time, it was cheaper to chat online than it was to call long distance. She had a code phrase for her significant other that would let him know she wasn’t alone. She created their secret phrase to help keep their conversations private. While both of these individuals were adults, you probably wouldn’t be comfortable with the same thing happening with your twelve-year-old daughter or your ten-year-old son. It’s hard the draw the line between allowing their chat to be private and being aware when something that is being shared is inappropriate.
As a parent, it’s important to know what’s being said in email, online chat and even text messages. So here’s a few steps to help you decode what is really being said.
First, if you find that your child is hiding messages or minimizing the screen when you’re around, you may want to dig a little deeper. It could be that they just want their privacy, but it’s worth being safe to find out who they’re talking to and taking a quick glance at what’s being said. Second, respect your child’s privacy. They may be a child, but they still want to feel like they can express themselves without an adult being involved. Kids will feel the need to express their emotions, and it’s important to remember when reading these communications that they intended for them to be private. And finally, if you find that you can’t understand what’s being said, use a chat decoder like this one: http://www.zoobuh.com/tools/chatdecoder/. If you find that a particular acronym or phrase is popping up a lot and you can’t seem to find it online, then it may be one your child created with their friend. If you’re concerned that this may be an inappropriate communication, speak with your child. Discuss the acronym or phrase and take appropriate action if needed.
When it comes to non-verbal communication, you can never be too careful. Knowledge is your strongest defense.