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Parents should 'know the code'

Teens have developed their own language for texting, social media

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ORANGE PARK, Fla. – Teens have developed their own, online language when it comes to texting and connecting on social media, so they can communicate without their parents knowing what's being said. Acronyms are used on social media apps and text messaging, and some can be pretty explicit and racy, 

For example, WYCM stands for “Will you call me?” PAW means “Parents are watching.” Some may seem harmless but others are more dangerous, like CU46 means “See you for sex” and GNOC means “Get naked on cam.”

Those are only a few of about 20,000 new words and abbreviations social media experts say your kids are likely using to communicate with each other.

WJXT-TV spoke with five Clay County teenagers, ages 14 and 15, to find out what they know of this private language.

"What is the average age or grade for kids to get phones nowadays," News4Jax asked the group.
"Seventh grade," 14-year-old Emma said.

Of the eighth, ninth and 10th graders, most say they were given their first cell phone when they were about 10 years old in order to communicate with their parents. All of their parents know there's "texting talk," but they may not realize just how explicit the vocabulary has become.

IWS means "I want sex" TDTM means “talk dirty to me,” 420 is code for “marijuana,” but one really disturbed the parents of the teenagers News4Jax spoke with: LMIRL, which stands for “Let’s meet in real life.”

"It's scary. We have to be informed. I have two teenage boys. I need to know what's going on to better parent," said Jennifer, a Clay County mom.

"You know you've got to continuously try to stay up to date on this junk that is bombarding our children," said Debbie, also a parent.

"Just scary, oblivious to the secret language, just oblivious," said Bill. "And that's nowhere a parent should be."

The parents of these kids were relieved, however, to learn their children didn't know many of the texting acronyms. But, this group of teenagers was eager to discuss something else.

"Does everybody agree texting is the most popular?" WJXT-TV asked.

"No," said the teens.

Holly, who's 15 years old, said probably the most popular are “Kik” and “Snapchat.”

EXTENDED INTERVIEW:
Teenagers discuss code language

And the teens added that connecting with friends on social media dominates their phone usage. But it can be dangerous, because they get approached by strangers a lot.

"I have a friend that she has ‘Kik’ and she'll have like 30 messages from guys she doesn't even know," said Reece, who's 15 years old.

"The typical parent says that their greatest fear is that the child will be contacted by stranger online," said Brian Housman, a parenting and youth counselor with techsavvyparenting.com. "And it's a well-warranted fear because over 80 percent of teenagers admit to having conversations with strangers online. Of those 80 percent, 18 percent of them set up a face-to-face meeting in public with that stranger. "

Housman travels and writes full time, helping equip and encourage parents as they raise their children, often helping them navigate through the technology that's captivated millennials since the creation of smartphones and social media sites.

"The average teenager now spends 9½ hours a day plugged in," said Housman.

He says keeping an honest and open relationship with your child is key. The social media expert has guided scores of parents and their children through the world of technology.

With two teenagers of his own, Housman says good communication with your child will help you keep up with the newest and latest websites.

UNCUT: Counselor discusses teens' code language

"One of the top five social media apps the teenagers are using now is called 'After School,'" Housman said. "I've yet to meet a single parent who's even heard of the app. So it just goes to show that we think we know was happening but it happens so much quicker than we can keep up with his parents."

Every child is different, and by just asking them, you can learn a lot.

"Parent need to be more protective of their girl children, because there is a lot more male predators out there," said 14-year-old Dean.

And 15-year-old Holly says getting her phone at age 10 was just too soon. Why?

"Because I wasn't mature enough to have a cell phone," she said. "Because just that age. You don't know what's going to happen."

At 6:30 p.m. Monday, youth counselor Brian Housman will be speaking at Montclair Elementary School, in Orange Park, discussing internet safety, cyberbullying, sexting and how to safeguard your home and your child's life.

This is an informal event and it's open to the public. Montclair Elementary is located at 2398 Moody Ave in Orange Park.


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