The average teen spends 20.1 hours per week on media, social media and communications according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. To find out more click here.
Based on that fact, every parent or care giver should be doing at least two hours of lurking, checking, reading, and just plain spying on their kids devices to make sure things are really going okay IRL (translation: in real life, for those of you who don’t read your kids text messages).
I was reminded today when my 22 year old sent along a screenshot of a Facebook post on some common abbreviations kids use in texting. I knew them, but I deal with kids 5th – 12th grade at Student Impact of Westfield every day and have done some type of youth ministry work for 25 years. It did occur to me that a lot of parents and caregivers need some input on what exactly to watch out for in their kiddos.
As social media goes, this post will be almost outdated by the time it is posted. A good example…MySpace. Yep. Enough said. However, there are some very basic things to look out for as far as kids and social media…even just kids on devices period.
First, be mean about restrictions. Set parental settings on EVERYTHING and do it while they are young. Set Netflix to under PG13…if your kid wants to watch a show that bad and is under 13, they will ask you and you can type in the code every single time. It goes without saying to check your browser history all the time…and don’t allow deletions without a password you set. How do you do that? Set up accounts on your computers…every single device. Kindle. iPad. Laptop. Chrome Book. Make yourself the primary and allow each of your kiddos to have their own account with specific settings to their age…and don’t forget to block the sites you don’t want them on. Do kids Youtube…it’s way safer and will keep you more at ease.
Second, read their text messages at your leisure. Again, be mean. The phone belongs to the adult, so at any point, I have access to said phone/device for my reading pleasure. When my kiddos start using devices to text, my husband and I have them on our iCloud accounts so we can see everything that goes out and comes in. It’s a quick way to train kiddos on what texting is used for…and what to watch out for.
Third, know the language of kids. This also changes roughly every week, but try your best to keep your ears open. Here’s some lingo to watch out for:
Netflix and chill: This has absolutely nothing to do with movies or relaxing, and everything to do with hooking up.
Hooking Up: It’s not what it used to be in 1987 when my friends and me would hook up at a bonfire and chill out for the night. Today, hooking up is a very R rated version of getting together and it is definitely not to chat.
FYEO: For your eyes only
CD9: This is a CODE 9…for those older than 12, it means “my parents are around.”
PAW: Parents are watching
LH6: Let’s Have Sex
143: I love you
Lit: Describes something that’s popular or energetic, like a party. It can also mean drunk or stoned.
Turned/Turnt Up: Similar to “Lit”, but a loud party or being drunk or stoned.
TBH: An acronym for “to be honest”. I see this on Instagram all over with kids. Users post “Like this status for a TBH,” and then leave previously unrevealed truths in the comment fields for all their friends who like the post. Nothing good can be said of this practice.
KYS: Kill Yourself. I think it goes without saying that this should never be said or read.
99: Code for my parents are gone and out of sight.
LMIRL: Let’s meet in real life. Very scary, but I can tell you that yesterday a 12 year old showed me a text from a man who sought her out on Facebook and got her cell number off messaging. Over the next few hours, he persistently texted the girl during school calling her “bae” and telling her he missed her. In the next text it went to “what is your bra size” and then quickly to “LMIRL”. It is happening. Period.
CU46: See you for sex.
1174: Code for meeting at a party spot
MPFB: Derogatory and horrible, but it’s “My Personal F-word Buddy”.
GNOC: Get naked on camera. Computer cams and SnapChat and FB live can all be used for this one.
I know it’s hard to parent. I’ve been raising my four girls for the last 22 years. My husband and I have had 11 foster kids. I have about 150 kids a week come through Student Impact of Westfield. Every single one of them is different and I truly believe each of them desires to be the best they can be. I will tell you though, each of them faces a very hard battle each day of fitting in, being pretty, being popular, having status, making the team, making grades, etc., that can be released easily behind a screen. And it all starts with a very short and simple hello with no malicious intent, but it can so quickly go down a rabbit hole that is not easily escaped.
Be mean. If your kid hasn’t called you mean in the last few days, you just may not be pushing back on the right things.
And remember, always circle around to love and support. I promise in the end, your kids will thank you for being so mean. I’m trying to explain that to my now 14, 12, and 9 year old girl from their 22 year old sister’s life experience. And do one last thing…get them an adult you trust, that has been background checked, that can be part of their life. As the parent, you will never be able to be their “go to” for everything so give them a safe place with a safe person to go to when they need it. That’s the reason Student Impact of Westfield exists. There are a lot of places and people that can bring that safety to your kiddo…and it’s never online!
Danyele Easterhaus is the Executive Director of Student Impact of Westfield. She is also the wife to Ryan and Momma to Paige, Brooke, Jada, and Sofia and a more than 2 year resident of Westfield.
Click here to find out more about Student Impact of Westfield.