NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, January 2007
Net Lingo – What Are Your Kids Saying Online?
By Ira Wilsker,
APCUG Director; Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

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Imagine that as a good parent, you are monitoring your minor children’s use of the internet, trying to protect them from online predators. Many of us fail to give our children proper credit in that they are often more technologically literate than us parents. Rather than typing out complete words and phrases, we find that our youngsters are using several acronyms that make no sense to us, or are using strange combinations of punctuation and letters in their online chats. As you enter the room, the child frantically types “PIR”, followed shortly by “PAW” and then “POS”. The person at the other side of the chat replies with an “=X”. If you are a typical parent, you have no idea what is being said, and are totally clueless about the content of the chat your child is engaging in.

Computer users have developed a lengthy list of acronyms and symbols to improve the efficiency of chatting, text messaging, and instant messages. The utilization of these abbreviations also indicates a degree of sophistication of the user, as well as a means to hide the real meanings of a chat from the prying eyes of others who may not be so techno-sophisticated. In the conversation above, when the parent approached, the “PIR” was a statement or warning that a “Parent In Room”. The “PAW” alerted the other party that “Parents Are Watching”, and the final “POS” told the person that a “Parent Over Shoulder” was present. The symbolic reply “=X” indicates that the other person has sealed their lips. The acronyms are referred to as “Net Lingo”, and the combination of symbols, punctuation, and letters are known as “Emoticons”, which often display a sideways face. In order to better protect our children from the evils that they may face online, we parents need to be aware of some of the most commonly used lingo and emoticons. While most emoticons and lingo are totally innocent, and a fun shorthand way for a user to express himself, just as with words and language, there is a chance of dangerous abuse.

Many kids use these methods to KPC (Keep Parents Clueless). Often harmless shorthand includes such items as BRB (Be Right Back), L8R (Later), LOL (laughing Out Loud), and ROTFL (Rolling On The Floor Laughing). The use of some net lingo should make the informed parent suspicious. Suppose the parent is POS, and notices abbreviations such as ASL, SorG, ADR, and WYRN. In this cryptic conversation one person is asking the other “Age – Sex – Location”, and asking if the person is “Straight or Gay?”. This is followed by “what is your ADdRess?”, and “What is Your Real Name?” The inclusion of these terms in an online chat or text message may send up flags to alert the parent that there may be more than an innocent chat taking place. Sadly, there are even more ominous warnings that something may be amiss with our kids’ online communications. I would be most suspicious if one of my daughters received the message LMIRL (Let’s Meet In Real Life), and maybe even KOTL (Kiss On The Lips). There are also many other lingo abbreviations that have strong sexual connotations, such as TDTM, IWSN, NIFOC, and GYPO. Without defining these terms, the presence of any of them in an online chat should result in prompt and serious parental intervention.

Most of us have seen the friendly emoticons such as ;-) (wink and a smile), or :-( (a frown). Emoticons are commonly used in text messages, instant messages, and online chats to display the emotions of the user and to put the message in proper context. Some of you reading this now may be >:-< (angry or mad) at the forms that online conversation may take. Sometimes a simple asterisk * may indicate a kiss while :**: means that the kiss is returned, and (()):** indicates “hugs and kisses”. If a name is inserted between the parentheses such as ((name)):** the emoticon can be personalized. Emoticons can also be used to indicate humor or seasonality. The symbol *<:-) stands for Santa Claus, and a 08-) is a “starry eyed angel” (the zero is a halo, the eight is eyes, dash is a nose, and right parenthesis is a smile).

There are many other mostly innocent and often entertaining emoticons. 5:-) represents Elvis, as does ~:-\ . The emoticon =):-)= stands for Abraham Lincoln. For our anniversary I might text message my wife 12x@>--->--- which stands for a dozen roses. Some of you might think that this is :/) which means “not funny”.

Net lingo and emoticons are a common and often useful adjunct to internet communications. Just as in most other human endeavors, the overwhelming majority of times that they are utilized they are used in an innocent context. But as is often the case, there is always a chance of danger, misuse and abuse. The informed parent should be aware of the real meanings of the lingo and emoticons used by our minor children. I am a firm believer that children are our most important asset, and need to be protected. Parents should be aware of the language that our children are using online, and should take appropriate protective action when warranted.

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this article as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. The Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member, brings this article to you.

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