Can you speak the same language as your kids?

In recent posts we’ve looked at the apps and sites kids have migrated to in order to conduct their interactions away from where their parents and relatives ‘hang out’ online. Which brings us to the next issue for parents: even if you do manage to keep a tab on you children’s interactions online, can you actually understand what they are saying to each other??

‘Internet slang’ is the term sometimes given to the new forms of ‘English’ evolving through online interactions. It originated in the early days of the internet as chat rooms arose and people began to develop short hand ways to write words in order to save keystrokes and so get messages across more quickly. In more recent years, small keyboards on mobile phones and character limits on social network sites such as Twitter have dramatically escalated the evolution of internet slang or ‘netspeak’.

Most parents understand terms like LOL (laugh out loud) or BFF (best friends forever), but beyond these most common terms they quickly start to get confused. So how can we as parents keep up with the evolution of online language, at least enough to understand our kids? Firstly it helps to know the basic methods by which most terms arise.


By far the most common internet shorthand is to take a common phrase and just use the first letters of each word when writing it. For example, ROFL is an acronym for Rolling On the Floor Laughing. BTW = By The Way. OMG = Oh My God and so on. Most sites that explain internet slang for parents seem to only be aware of these types of slang words, but really they’re only the beginning.

Letter/number homophone abbreviations

Slightly more difficult to interpret, these are like acronyms but with letter and number homophones mixed in. CU = See You, CUL8R = See You Later, gr8 = great and so on.

Phonetic spellings

Sometimes its just fun to spell words however you want, its not necessarily even shorter or easier to write, but it is cooler than following strict spelling conventions. For example, ‘weel’ instead of ‘wheel’, ‘kewl’ for ‘cool’, or ‘nite’ for ‘night’. Many of these arose due to common typing mistakes, for example ‘teh’ is now common for ‘the’.  It’s helpful also here to understand that ‘ph’ is often used to replace ‘f’, such as in ‘phear’ for ‘fear’.

Dropping vowels

NVR = never, NVM = never mind, WR – were and so on. Whole sentences can be written without vowels, for example, ‘The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog’ would become ‘Th qck brwn fx jmps vr th lzy dg’.

I won’t try and provide a dictionary of internet slang here, mainly because it would become outdated as soon as I published it. It may help to provide some terms that are popular right now, and also some that are particularly important for parents to understand. So here’s a list you can test yourself on!

YOLO – ‘You Only Live Once’. Can be used to justify risky or extreme behaviour

FOMO – ‘Fear Of Missing Out’

IMO – In My Opinion

ASL – Most common form of introduction on the net, as in ‘What is your Age, Sex, Location’

O RLY – This is strictly used as a sarcastic or ironic ‘oh really?’

PRON – Porn

CWOT – Complete Waste Of Time

LMIRL – Lets Meet In Real Life

PAW, PIR, POS – these used as warnings: Parents Are Watching, Parent In Room, Parent Over Shoulder.

CD9 – Code 9 (parent nearby)

BF? GF? – Do you have a Boy Friend/Girl Friend?

GTG – Got To Go

S2R – Send To Receive, as in, if you want a picture of me you need to send a picture of yourself first.

Remember, Google is your best friend when it comes to translating from any language – even Internet Slang! So if you are struggling to work out a particular phrase or word, just Google it! is another really handy site that seems to be very responsive in adding new words or phrases as they arise on the net.

So now probably all that’s left to say is….GL! (good luck!)