A Brief Guide to Teen Lingo

Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter recently had a slumber party with two friends from school. One of them left her phone. I texted my daughter so she could tell her friend, and two seconds later got this back: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ON THAT PHONE!!!!! Clearly she was trying to hide something, so I immediately opened the phone and started reading the texts—especially between this girl and my daughter. With all the abbreviations, I could hardly understand what they were talking about. But based on my daughter’s response, I’m worried. Should I be? And was I wrong to read those texts?

A: Yes and no. Your daughter’s screaming response could simply be a demand for privacy, which is something you should try to respect. However, her response seems so panicky that I think you were right to snoop. The fact that you couldn’t understand what you were reading doesn’t necessarily mean there’s anything to worry about—your daughter and her friend could be having completely innocent conversations that you’re just not cool enough to understand (very few adults are). On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite.

If you’ve followed pop culture at all, you probably already know words like “BFF” (best friends forever), “OMG” (Oh, my God/gosh), “twerking” (a squatting, hip-thrusting dance that simulates sex), “selfie” (taking pictures of yourself with your phone), and “sexting” (taking naked pictures of yourself and sending them to other people). Those words have become so common that they’re showing up in dictionaries.

To help you decide whether you should worry about your daughter’s conversations, here are some words and abbreviations you need to know.

  • Bounce: Planning to leave
  • BRB: I’ll be right back
  • Fam: The family
  • Fly: Very cool
  • HBU: How’ bout you?
  • HMU: Hit me up
  • IDK/IDC: I don’t know/I don’t care
  • ILU/ILU2: I love you/I love you too
  • IRL: In real life
  • LOL/ROLF: Laughing out loud/rolling on the floor laughing
  • Noob: A person ignorant about something related to pop culture
  • OH: Overheard
  • OMW: On my way
  • Sick: Something awesome or surprising—in the same way as “bad” used to mean “good”
  • Swag: The way someone carries himself or herself, exuding confidence

Most of the words above are pretty harmless, and you may be able to up your cool factor by occasionally using a few of them in your own texts. Anything below, though, should cause you some concern.

  • ASL: Age, sex, location
  • Crunk: A combination of crazy and drunk
  • F2F/MIRL: Face to face/meet in real life
  • Getting it On, Doing the Dirty, Tapping, Bump Fuzzies: Having sex
  • GNOC/GYPO/NIFOC: Get naked on camera/get your pants off/naked in front of computer
  • KPC: Keep parents clueless
  • PAW/POS/Code9/CD9: Parents are watching/parents over shoulder
  • TDTM: Talk dirty to me
  • WTF/STFU: What the f…?/shut the f… up
  • XXL: Well-endowed male

If everything in your daughter’s texts was on the first list, great. If anything was on the second list, you and your daughter need to have some serious conversations about online safety and appropriate uses of technology. Remind her that having a phone is a privilege, not a right. Expect some pushback about how you violated her and her friend’s privacy, but her texts are more than enough proof that she needs supervision. Like it or not, your family isn’t (or shouldn’t be) a democracy: your house, your rules, and anyone not paying the mortgage has to earn the right to complete privacy.