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A Parent's Guide to Understanding Online and Texting Acronyms

Have you ever glanced at the screen when your child was texting or chatting online with a friend and found that you couldn't understand what was being said? It may look to you like they're just typing jumbles of letters. Maybe video games and television have turned your child's brain into paste, you think, or maybe you're having a stroke. In fact, what you're seeing are acronyms for common phrases - a kind of Web and texting shorthand.

Understanding the abbreviations that your kids are using over the phone and online is helpful in two ways: It helps you converse with them over text, IM, and e-mail, and it also helps you decipher what they're saying to friends. Most chat abbreviations are harmless. But did you know that kids have several ways to tell their friends that you've just walked into the room? Chances are your kids aren't hiding anything important from you - they just want their privacy. Nevertheless, it's a good idea to learn the lingo so that you can be aware of your child's online and cell phone activities. Following are some of the more common acronyms kids use, both on the Web and over text message.

LOL - Laughing out loud
ROFL - Rolling on floor laughing
JK - Just kidding

Kids use these to let their friends know that they appreciate their jokes, that they are joking themselves, or that a comment of their own was intended in good humor.

GF - Girlfriend
BF - Boyfriend
BFF - Best friend forever

Whereas some online and texting acronyms are used interchangeably with their spelled-out forms, dollars to donuts you will never see anybody under the age of 18 type the words "boyfriend" or "girlfriend." Before long, "GF" and "BF" will have entries in the Oxford dictionary.

BRB - Be right back
AFK - Away from keyboard
BAK - Back at keyboard

Self-explanatory, no?

IMO - In my opinion
IMHO - In my humble opinion

Because it's so difficult to understand somebody's tone when communicating by neutral text, it's often necessary to include qualifiers. These abbreviations indicate that the user isn't trying to be confrontational.

OMG - Oh my God
WTH - What the hell

Abbreviating these common expressions of frustration or disdain takes some of the sting out. (You will no doubt encounter a more adult version of "WTH" - "WTF.")

More on: Internet Safety

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