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Children using text slangs to mask their plans

Published:Sunday | February 22, 2015 | 12:00 AMNadine Wilson-Harris
A model writes a text message on her phone.

Just as some parents were getting used to text language, such as 'LOL' (laugh out loud) or 'DWL' (dead with laugh), the children have managed to widen the generation gap by adopting a whole new range of acronyms and Internet slangs that are making it even more challenging to decipher their movements and moods.

These slangs are often used during 'sexting' (sending raunchy text messages) or for hiding from adults.

Cracking the code might help you to keep your children out of danger, but with the dynamic nature of cyberspace, these acronyms are likely to go out of style by the time most parents learn them.

"They keep changing them, and within groups you have meanings that are peculiar to that group, so it's not easy, definitely not easy," said communication specialist Dr Marcia Forbes.

She said children have always found ways to keep their parents out of their private lives. In the past, for example, children would keep diaries and some had pen pals.

"In my days, it was probably something else, but in today's world, it is related to the Internet and life online and how we behave and how we live our lives online. You don't want your parents to be all up in your business," she said.

Twenty-year-old Chevaun agrees and admits that he and his friends often use slangs when they plan to go to a party or somewhere that might not meet the approval of their parents. Apart from widely used codes, he and his friends often adopt slangs from local dancehall songs.

"Many of us, we actually practise it. Even though they change frequently, as one comes up, we grasp it just like that and it is easy for us, because we understand the need to use these codes," he told The Sunday Gleaner.

"It's not all the time that we want people to know our whereabouts or to know exactly what it is that we are talking about," he said.

For 18-year-old lower-sixth-form student Barrington, the use of codes is also a good way for teenagers to communicate without having to spend too much money on phone cards. He is able to send 500 free texts after paying for five texts, for example. He admitted that 'sexting' is a popular thing among his peers, especially those entering the data arena.

"Nobody is not going to talk about school and those things. They are going to say that school is boring so they find other ways to make the conversation spicy," he said.

But Dr Forbes, who authored the book Music, Media & Adolescent Sexuality in Jamaica, feels parents can decode their children's online social life by strengthening their existing relationship with them.

"My best advise to parents is to keep close to your children and build trust," she said.