By Pat Ross
A generation or two ago, there was an easy entrance into the world of teens. It featured a warning signal, and was often attached to the wall. Brrrng, brrrng. “Hello?” “Hi. Is Cathy home?” Inevitably, a lot of the phone calls in an average family household were for the younger set, aged 12 or 13 and up. The loud sound and the activity provided parents with an opening to ask a question or two. “Who was that, honey?” Pause. “What did he want?” In some instances, the parent managed to get to the telephone first. Then, anything was possible. Details could emerge. “A party? Really?”
Today, there is silence. Technology has – virtually and literally – cut the cord that kept the two generations linked, or at least within shouting distance. Now, adults trying to keep dibs on their offspring can have a challenging time not being outsmarted by smart phones. That’s because adolescents are more apt to text than talk on their “cells.” Even when they’re together sometimes they prefer to text than talk, especially when adults are around.
Fortunately, kids can now type. They’ve been motivated to teach themselves.
Unfortunately, grammar and spelling are extraneous. Since speed and brevity are valued in this type of teen talk, pretty much anything goes. More perplexing still, for parents, is the realization this hybrid form of communication is in code. If you thought Pig Latin was tricky, take a look at the various lists of words and acronyms commonly used for texting and online chatting. WTH (What the heck)?
Should you want to stay connected with your kids and understand how they communicate, it’s wise to begin researching – and texting – RN (right now). One comforting place to start is textED.ca. A website created by the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Inc., textED.ca aims to show teens how to text respectfully, responsibly and safely. There’s a handy “acronictionary” as well as helpful information about everything from setting boundaries to being careful about sharing information online. Teens often have hundreds of so-called “friends” on Facebook, and on Twitter, followers can number in the thousands. Any information or images shared online cannot be taken back and can potentially be shared without permission.
It’s a good idea to talk about these issues, face to face, with your youngsters. It’s even better if you keep the conversation going by texting back and forth with them. It can be fun, and helpful, especially since teens are apt to answer text messages more promptly than phone messages. At the same time, if you’re concerned about what else may be going on in “Textland,” take a look at the Top 50 Acronyms for Parents at www.netlingo.com and keep on chatting with – and listening to – your kids.