The 411 on Social Media

ICYMI (In Case You Missed It), social media such as Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and texting has developed into a language all its own. Would you know what your child was saying if they typed WE or YYSSW? Just FYI, these refer to the popular teen phrases ‰ÛÏWhatever‰Û and ‰ÛÏYeah, Yeah, Sure, Sure, Whatever.‰Û You can add the eye roll yourself. Perhaps you don‰Ûªt understand what all of those acronyms mean because you are BT (Between Technologies) and have not quite caught up yet. If you are like many parents with children, you are aware that the Internet, particularly chat rooms and other forms of social media can be dangerous places. The focus of media and the dangers of the Internet tend to focus on stalkers, sexual predators and other miscreants of society. However, there are other dangers that parents need to be aware of that are much more prevalent and likely to invade your teen‰Ûªs computer screen than the ones that are most commonly cited in popular news media.

The dangers of which I speak have been around for a long time. They have been pervasive problems in society long before the Internet came into existence. Only now, they have a new voice and new technology that brings them right into your own home, right into your living room and right into your child‰Ûªs bedroom. They can be found at the local cafÌ©, at school, in your child‰Ûªs car, at the mall, and at the local library. These old dangers, such as alcohol, drugs, dangerous sexual behavior, bullying, emotional abuse, and other forms of violence have found a way to follow your child around everywhere they go. The home is no longer a safe haven from these things and many parents do not know that they have already breached the walls of their castle.

The Internet is an excellent tool. It can help your child have a wealth of information at their fingertips. It can help to keep them connected to the world around them. Social media has also proven to be an excellent adult tool for keeping connected, building global networks, and for marketing. Given these advantages, the little plastic cell phone in your child‰Ûªs hand might seem harmless at first. However, if you could only read between the lines of what your child might be using it for, you might be in for a surprise.

Today‰Ûªs parents face an age old problem that has plagued parents for centuries, how to monitor their children, offer guidance and advice, yet allow them to build their own friendships and make their own way in the world. Every parent wants to try to be distant enough so that they do not feel that you are hovering, yet, we all know the dangers that lurk in the world and feel the need to protect our children from them. The first step in the ability to do this is knowledge. Parents need to know what their children are saying on those seemingly ubiquitous little devices that seem to have sprouted from their ear like an additional appendage.

Teens are faced with the same problem that they have always faced, how to hide what they are doing from their parents, as they continue their quest for independence and self-sufficiency in the world. Technology has aided in their ability to hide what they are doing from their parents and parents have done a largely poor job of keeping up with their many techniques.

Social media is an ARE (Acronym Rich Environment). I was surprised to find out that there was even an acronym to describe acronyms. If parents are not aware of the hundreds acronyms and keystrokes that their children are using on chats, SMS, and other forms of social media, it will be more difficult to tell if their kids have something to hide.

IOW (In Other Words), the parent must learn this new language for themselves in order to understand what their children know that they don‰Ûªt. The following list is from Webopedia Guide to Text Messaging & Chat Abbreviations and gives the more common abbreviations that every parent should know.

If you see your child type something like 420, it means ‰ÛÏlet‰Ûªs get high‰Û or smoke marijuana. Bet you didn‰Ûªt know that one. If they simply type the number 9, it means that a parent is watching, a warning to the other parties not to type anything that would give a clue as to the real topic of the conversation. If they type 121, they are asking to have a private conversation. The language of SMS has developed into a secret code. Some of the more important ones that will give parents a clue that they need to look a little closer are:
ASLA
Age/sex/location/availability ( A request ).
9
Parent is watching.
B9
Boss is watching
121
Asking for a private conversation
420
Let's get high or smoke marijuana
LGH
Let's get high
B/F
Boyfriend
B/G
Background (personal information request)
BIB
Boss is back
MBS
Mom behind shoulder
MOS
Mother over shoulder
P911
Parents coming into room alert
PAW
Parents are watching
POS
Parent over shoulder
PRW
People/parents are watching
PSOS
Parent standing over shoulder
YBS
You'll be sorry
If you don‰Ûªt learn any others, at least learn these. If you see them you have a good clue that you need to look closer into what your kids are trying to get away with behind your back. Another one to look for that can lead to serious consequences, whether your child is the giver or the receiver is YBS (You‰Ûªll Be Sorry). This could be taken as a serious threat depending on the context under which it was made.

There are many of these acronyms that are tied to specific actions that a parent would be interested to know. If you suspect that your child is engaging in behaviors that would make your eyes bug out, my best suggestion is to go to one of the dictionaries online and check out the meanings of the acronyms. It is better to be informed and safe, than oblivious to what your child is doing online.

If you do find that your child is engaging in unsafe activities online, then comes the question of what to do about it. Should you tell them or not? This question is no different than if you caught them using any other way to hide their actions. It depends on the family and the situation. If you feel that you need to seek the advice of an expert, by all means do so. This is serious business. How much you let your child know about what you know about their world is up to you and depends on your relationship with your child. If nothing else, you will be surprised to find out how many acronyms there are. BTW this is just m.02 on the topic.

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