Tweens & Teens: Decode your kids’ text messages


By Dr. Billy Jones, father and child psychologist with Mercy Health

According to a 2007 research study, 82% of Americans own a cell phone. This amounts to about 250 million people. Of those 250 million, guess how many are children and teenagers. …Okay, I’ll tell you: Ages 6-9 years = 22%; ages 10-14 years = 60%; and ages 15-18 years = 84%. I have no idea why a 6-year-old needs a cell phone, but that’s what the study tells us.

Additionally, Yankee Research company indicated that 54% of 8 to 12-year-olds will own a cell phone within the next 3 years. Since this survey was completed in 2007, that means VERY soon…as in 2010…as in NOW! My son, who is 11-years-old, has a cell phone and texts nonstop. He is texting friends, neighbors, and family. Constantly.

In fact, 84 million Americans admit to texting on a daily basis. Teens and tweens will not only text basic messages but also sexual ones (called “sexting”) as well as sending out messages to bully other students (called cyber-bullying). In a 2008 survey of teenagers (13 to 19 years-old) and young adults (20 to 26 years-old), 20% of the teenagers (33% for young adults) had sent photos of themselves either nude or semi-nude. Also, 39% of teenagers (59% of young adults) had sent sexually explicit messages.

I’ve been asked by, a GREAT website (there’s a little plug for Gwen and Shannon), to talk about texting terms. Obviously, I don’t know all of them because I’m over the age of 30 (but not by much.) :-)

So… I asked my son, his friends, teenage patients who come through my office, and various middle school and junior high school classrooms in Northwest Arkansas to provide a list of texting terms, and then I compiled my own little database.

texting.jpgBefore giving you the list, I need to clarify. ALL of these come from teens and tweens ranging in age from 10 to 16 years-old.  IF an obscene text was used, I asked them to use a “*” in place of the word, and I was easily able to figure it out. You should be able to figure them out as well. I asked them to put down all terms they frequently used and to not hold back with the obscene ones. As a parent, I want to know them all…the good, the bad, and the ugly.

My son, by the way (or “btw” in text language) came up with the second most popular term, which is “wtf”.  This stands for “What the *?” Yes, it is the “F” word you’re thinking it might be. I knew he knew the term, but for him to actually use it…YIKES!!! Needless to say, we had a little talk.

Okay, enough talk and now to the top 10 terms in order of their popularity. FYI…lowercase letters are used as casual conversation while capital letters would be used if you wish to “shout” your message. That’s not considered good “netiquette.” (Yes, this is actually a real term).

  1.  lol = Laughing out loud
  2. wtf = What the *
  3. gtg = Got to go (or sometimes may mean Good to go)
  4. ttyl = Talk to you later
  5. brb = Be right back
  6. k (or) kk = Okay (kk is considered more thoughtful and is derived from “Okay cool”)
  7. omg = Oh my God
  8. u = You
  9. r = Are
  10. bff = Best friends forever

What was most interesting are some of the other terms I received. For example, POS means “Parent over my shoulder”, which is very helpful as I know my child is texting something he should not.

Here are some more I got either from this survey (just not in the top 10) or from websites that list additional texting terms:

  • jk = Just kidding
  • c = See
  • ty = Thank-you
  • np = No problem…can also mean “nude pictures”, depending on the context
  • texting2.jpga/s/l/p = Age/Sex/Location/Picture
  • gf or bf = Girlfriend or Boyfriend
  • bamf = Bad *ss mother *
  • adih = Another day in Hell
  • bac = Bad *ss chick
  • btfo = Back the * out
  • btw = By the way
  • rofl = Rolling on floor laughing
  • roflmao = Rolling on floor laughing my *ss off
  • g/l/b/t = Gay/lesbian/bisexual/transgender
  • idk = I don’t know
  • pron = Pornography
  • ru/18 = Are you over 18 years old
  • tdtm or td2m = Talk dirty to me

The list goes on… and on… and on…

As you can see, lots of teens and tweens are talking in code. Even my son, who does know how to spell btw, will write “was” as “wuz”. I casually remarked that it contained the same number of letters and would be just as easy to spell correctly. His response was, “Dad, that’s not the cool way to text it.” I am officially old.

If you want me to be honest, I think most of these so-called “cool” misspellings are initially made because many of our children don’t know how to spell. They say, “It’s cool” instead of “I don’t know how to spell that word.” But that is imho (in my humble opinion). I guess with spell check, you don’t need to know how to spel (rofl at myself on that one).

Click here to read previous articles on Tweens & Teens. Got a question for Dr. Jones? Send it to us (we won’t use your name) and we may feature it in an upcoming installment of Tweens & Teens.


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