The very first text message was sent 28 years ago. Today, almost 26 billion text messages flow across the networks worldwide every single day. iPhones and popular apps such as Facebook Messenger and Snapchat use an updated format called Rich Communication Services. Messages sent on those platforms don’t count as actual text messages. When we add in the counts for those services, the total number of messages jumps to almost 4 times that amount. These short, quick messages have become the preferred method of communication for many adults, but even more so, with our children.
Generation Z thrives on a constant stream of communication through their mobile device. Subsequently, they have developed their own slang words made up of acronyms and phrases to describe their interactions with the world. Slang is not a new concept though. Every generation has developed its own unique style of conversation. The most important aspect to keep in mind is that the crazy words and acronyms your kids are using were not created as a way to keep adults out of the loop. It is about this generation finding their identity.
Modern slang can be a bit more confusing than that of previous groups. Parents almost need to be bilingual to understand it. It is impossible to capture all the jargon in use in a single column. I’ve created a list of the more popular terms and sorted them based on their level of concern for a parent.
The terms listed here are friendly or comical. There is nothing to be worried about if you see these show up in a text message, online comment, or virtual conversation.
- 4eae – For Ever and Ever
- IKR – I know right?
- IYKWIM – If you know what I mean
- NMU – Not much, you?
- On fleek – On point or to do something very well
- RAK – Random Act of Kindness
- Slay – Doing really well or “killing it”
- Truss – I agree
- Woke – Highly Aware of Social Issues
- YAS – Enthusiastic Version of Yes
- Yeet – An exclamation of approval or excitement often related to dancing or throwing something.
The words and phrases listed below are something that all parents should know. They are not necessarily bad; however, some of these deal with dating which could be concerning depending on the age of your child.
- Basic – Typically used as a criticism, this refers to a person who only likes things that are popular or trendy.
- Benching – This means someone is being put on the sideline while a person explores their other romantic options.
- Curve – Curving means to shut down or reject a person’s expression of interest in you.
- Deeplike – When someone goes on a social network and likes/favorites posts from several weeks or months back. The notifications of those like and favorites let the original poster know that someone has been looking through their photos, etc.
- Ghost – When all communication with a friend, or more likely, a love interest suddenly stops (as if the person was now a ghost). This is usually because the other party doesn’t want to take things to the next level and would prefer to stop talking rather than directly state the disinterest.
- Haunt – When a person who ghosted you begins to reappear in your life.
- IANAL – I am not a lawyer
- Thirsty – being desperate for something. This can often refer to someone wanting sex.
- PTB – Please text back
- QQ – To cry or crying
This last set of slang should be considered red flags. These words refer to sex, drugs, and other activities that potentially problematic for young adults.
- 53X – Sex. The 5 looks like an S, the 3 like an E.
- 9 / P911 / P999 / CD9 / MOS – All of these are used to let the person they are messaging know that a parent or adult is near. It serves as a warning to not say anything inappropriate.
- ASL – Age, sex, location. This is often used when someone is new to a conversation or chat room. Other users will ask “ASL?” as a way to better understand the context of who is chatting. This information can be easily be used by predators to coerce, convince, or threaten a child. Teens and young adults should know that sharing your age, sex, and location online is recipe for disaster.
- CU46 – See you for sex
- F2F / FTF – Face to face. This infers that two people need to meet up to see each out.
- GNOC / NIFOC – Get naked on camera or naked in front of camera.
- IRL / MIRL / LMIRL – This refers to in real life or meeting up in real life.
- IWSN – I want sex now
- KPC – Keep Parents Clueless
- Turnt – Looking to get drunk or high
- Wavey – To be drunk or high
- WYRN – What’s Your Real Name? We’ve looked at oversharing information online in the past. Here’s another example of where an innocent conversation can turn toward trouble. See ASL.
Tread lightly when it comes to teenage slang. In the event you see a concerning message, talk with your child about it before overreacting. The words described in this column can give you insight into your teen’s life as well as the context to help you have a conversation about what you saw or read. Talk with your child, assess the situation, and determine your next steps once you have had time to process everything.
As I mentioned, this is just a small collection of the larger vocabulary used by members of Generation Z. Parents who want to learn more can google search “ slang parents should know 2021” to find similar lists online. UrbanDictionary.com is an excellent resource if you need to look up a specific word or phrase. Be warned that Urban Dictionary contains quite a bit of NSFW (Not Safe for Work) content so be careful when and where you choose to look something up.
Mike Daugherty is a husband, father of three young children, author, speaker, Google Innovator, and possible Starbucks addict. He is a certified educational technology leader who has served in a variety of roles through his 18-year career in public education. Currently, Mike is the director of technology for the Chagrin Falls Exempted Village School district in Northeast Ohio. His blog, More Than A Tech, offers advice and ideas for parenting in a digital world.