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Understanding Why Teens and Tweens Use Trendy Text Lingo

November 13, 2014 at 6:59 PM

lingoText messaging is a fairly recent invention. As parents, it's often easy to get confused about how in the world you're supposed to hit those tiny buttons with your fingers, or what exactly "LOL TTYL" means. (Hint: it doesn't stand for "lots of love.")

Teens especially love to use trendy text lingo to get their point across. All of those acronyms and shortened words are easier than typing everything out and they still get the same point across if the person who receives the message understands them.

As a parent, you're probably annoyed with the turn that language has taken. But, in fact, language is constantly evolving, and has been for hundreds of years, ever since it was created. That's part of what's so great about it. This move toward text-speak is just the latest evolution of the way we speak.

Far from killing our grammar and spelling, which many people worry about, the reshaping and playing with words may actually strengthen some language skills. It's a new way to be creative and have fun with words. To understand an abbreviation, it's important to know the spelling of a word, so it can often be helpful to shorten things and use acronyms.

Language has changed since the time you were a teen, too. Not many people say "boss" to mean cool anymore, and no teens are saying "far out!" The words that you thought were cool when you were young are out of fashion now. That's just how language works. Text-speak is just this generation's version of "right on," and doesn't mean that English is going down the drain. You probably remember your parents saying similar things to you when you were growing up. That's just how parents feels when they realize they're out of the trendy language loop.

As soon as texting came on the scene, the English language began to be shaped by the new technology. Typing "gr8" was simply easier than typing out "great," and it was more fun, too. It was like having your own secret code that only you and your friends knew.

That's part of the appeal for teens as well. If you don't understands that "totes" is an abbreviation for "totally" and that "obv" is a shortened version of "obviously," then you aren't in on the secret club. As parents, we all know how much teen value their privacy and exclusivity. It's clear why they love trendy text lingo so much. It's a way to express their individuality and a way to begin separating themselves from their parents.

Though text messages may be short, they are still written messages. Think of how many thousands of texts your teen sends. That's all things that your teen has written. Though they don't realize it, those texts are helping to sharpen their writing skills. If your teen doesn't like to write for fun or for school, rest assured that they are still writing by communicating with their friends. It may seems silly, but it definitely counts.

Though it's difficult to keep up with the new language if you aren't actively using it every day by texting your friends a ton, it's possible to learn some of the new way of communicating so that you can at least understand what your teen is talking about. Don't worry too much about your teens or the English language. Both of them will survive the popularity of trendy text lingo.

Search our database of lingo terms and definitions to get the lowdown on what the trendy text lingo you're seeing means. In addition to having a lingo database, the uKnow team also hit the streets to find out how familiar people are with the top teen uKnowLingo slang. Be sure to check out the hilarious results here.

                      Keep track of your child's online activities with a 30 day free trial of uKnowKids                
Tim Woda

Written by Tim Woda

Tim Woda is an Internet safety expert, and a passionate advocate for empowering families and protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers. Woda was on the founding team of buySAFE, an Internet trust and safety company, and he started working on child safety issues after his son was targeted by a child predator online. While his son was unharmed, the incident led Woda to kick-start uKnow.com. You can follow Tim on Twitter or on his blog.

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