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What are they Talking About? Kids, Language and Computers

By: Charlotte Fereday - Updated: 27 Aug 2012 | comments*Discuss
Children Language Software Teens Slang

Teens (and sometimes pre-teens) are incredibly skilled at finding ways around barriers to having fun. Even if your computer is set up with all the latest filtering and monitoring software they will still find a way to talk about exactly what they want while they’re online.

Phone texting and using Instant Messenger programmes have led to a new language made up of acronyms and number strings. Your computer and internet filters won’t pick up anything suspicious and if you were to read what was written it would make no sense so how do you get to grips with this new language?

Simple But Effective

At the simplest level text and internet slang is based on reducing the number of keystrokes needed to express a message. There is nothing particularly underhand about using ‘U’ instead of You, ‘M’ instead of Am, ‘C’ in place of See and ‘R’ instead of Are, and it’s also not limited to teens. Anyone who sends a lot of text messages will understand the frustration of having to get your message across in a limited number of characters.

But inventive teens also understand the language that your internet management software searches for, and by abbreviating words or expressions to strings of letter or numbers they can talk far more freely. This is nothing new. Children through the ages have invented codes and languages (does anyone remember Pig Latin?) to enable them to talk openly in front of adults.

Common Slang

Expressions such as PAW (or MIW, or DIW) could mean that your child is up to something they shouldn’t be, why else would they need to tell someone that their parents are watching? LOL, or ‘laughed out loud’ is innocent enough, but apparently TD2M translates as talk dirty to me, PRON is porn and MIRL is an invitation to meet in real life.

These currently undetected common internet-isms highlight one of the reasons you shouldn’t rely on internet filtering and monitoring to protect your child. If your child, or teen, has found a way to get round the software then an adult internet predator will be perfectly capable of sneaking through the filters as well.

Controlling Netspeak

While innocent abbreviations of common phrases (BBL – Be Back Later, GF – girlfriend, W/E – whatever) are understandable and can be entertaining. Schools have noticed a worrying increase in ‘text speak’ or ‘netspeak’ in school assignments.

While this informal language is acceptable (if a little frustrating) in peer to peer communications it can have a negative effect when it becomes the default language. Try to get the message across to your child that essays and school projects need to be written out in full.

Getting More Complicated

At it’s most intricate ‘netspeak’ becomes ‘Geekspeak’, or ‘Leetspeak’ where letters (or groups of letters) become numbers. This complex language is fairly impenetrable to non-users and was originally developed by hackers and programmers, hence ‘leetspeak’ from elite speak.

It’s easy enough to learn geek speak but unless you’re worried your child is a fledgling hacker it’s likely that their conversations are limited to gaming and computing issues. This is such a niche language that other teens won’t understand much of it so it’s unlikely to land them in ‘inappropriate’ behaviour.

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