The contemporary language with abbreviations and symbols that many youths use on their cell phones to communicate with friends can be very confusing for parents. This form of communication among the new generation alienates parents from what is happening in the daily lives of their children, putting them at risk of getting into trouble.

For example, do you know what the following abbreviations mean: ASL, LOL, TNX, NP, J/K and NIFOC? ASL is asking “age/sex/location?,” LOL mean “laugh out loud,” TNX is “thanks,” NP is “no problem,” J/K  is “just kidding” and NIFOC is the messenger proclaiming him- or herself to be “naked in front of computer.”

According to Amanda Lenhart, anthropologist and social researcher at the Pew American and Internet Life, an organization that explores the impact of the internet on children, families, communities, workplaces and schools, “the youngsters develop their own language to make a difference in the established culture. Instant messaging, for example, is simply the most modern way to do it.”

In cell phones, the number of characters that can be used is very limited, so they get used to sending messages with as very few words as possible in the form of abbreviations and symbols. In other technology-based conversations, the situation is somewhat different. They have the ability to use more words, although many youngsters prefer to continue using abbreviations.

“It's not really something new,” says psychologist Arthur Heinz who practices in the state of Nevada. “At all times teens have sought to create distance between them and their parents, to ‘cut the umbilical cord,’ and thus make their own friends and seek their identity.” He added that this form of technologically-enhanced communication has let them move further away from their parents.

What you can do

There is great potential risk in parents not being able to decipher their children’s messages. They may be communicating with unscrupulous strangers, and fall victims of sexual crimes and other dangers.

According to authorities, crime on the internet is growing in the United States, and the fastest growing group of victims is minors.

In a report, the district attorney of San Diego County explains that criminals often meet their potential victims using chat rooms. Then, they try to communicate with them through text messages.

As a preventive measure, Heinz recommends that parents talk honestly with their children about the reasons why they are worried, reinforcing the rule that they “should not talk to strangers.”

Therefore, “if it is possible, try to keep your child away from chat rooms and check their phone messages. And do not allow them to enter into private chat rooms, especially when you are not around.”

Parents interested in understanding common abbreviations and symbols to prevent their children from getting into trouble, can learn them by searching the internet. Also, they can decipher the jargon they see on the phone or on the computer monitor in places like, which has an “Internet & Text Slang Translator” tool that offers translations for hundreds of acronyms.

Parents must also learn how to check the browsing histories (on their computers, cell phones or other devices) that show the websites their children visit. The purpose, he explains, is not to violate their privacy, but to help protect them. “Rather than becoming ‘detectives’ of their children, parents must strive to share quality time with them, but it is not a bad idea to learn some computer skills to watch what your kids are doing,” says Heinz.

Many adult education schools within the Los Angeles Unified School District offer computer training, free or at a low cost, and with extended hours.

Decoding teen texts

Here are just a few translations from

ASL (or A/S/L): Age, sex, locatio

BBL8R: Be back later

BF: Boyfriend

BRB: Be right back

BTW: By the way

CTN: Cannot talk now

CYA (C-ya): See you later

G2G: Got to go

GF: Girlfriend

HHOK: Ha ha, only kidding

IDK: I don’t know

ILU (or ILY): I love you

JK: Just kidding

L8R: See you later

LYLAS: Love you like a sister

NM: Not much

NVM: Never mind

OMG: Oh my God

PHAT: Pretty hot and tasty

DM: Direct message

POS: Parent over shoulder (so watch what you say)

THX: Thanks

TLF: True love forever

TMI: Too much informatio

WYWH: Wish you were here

YGM: You got mail

MIRL: Meet in real life

PAW: Parents are watching

MOS: Mom over shoulder

AFK: Away from keyboard

Interested in more? Subscribe to Angelus News to get daily articles sent to your inbox.