“I didn’t even know there’s a computer language the children are using – it’s quite frightening really.”
These are the words of a mum who, like other parents, failed our small street survey on “online teen speak” when we asked what baffed (confused), aired (ignored someone) and even GNOC (get naked on camera) meant. There are also codes for different drugs, such as 420 (marijuana). ‘Hella’ means really.
Teenagers have for years used coded language to create their own world and put up the “keep out” signs for adults.
This is more evident in online teen speak with phrases designed to let the other half of the Internet conversation know that a parent is watching, such as MOS (mum over shoulder) as well as deliberate attempts to exclude parental intervention with phrases like KPC (keep parents clueless).
The big questions are:
• Do our kids know how dangerous it could be for them to keep parents in the dark?
• And do parents know what their kids are saying – and revealing – on social media?
Home secretary Theresa May once said a child can be at greater risk sitting in their bedroom on their computer than they are outside the school gates.
Put bluntly, this means your kids could be talking to paedophiles who can assume any identity with anonymity afforded by the Internet.
They can also be groomed for sexual activity over webcams and even lured to a face-to-face meeting.
Parental alarm bells should ring if kids are saying MIRL (meeting in real life) or LMIRL (let’s meet in real life) unless it’s certain the message involves a known friend.
Lincolnshire Police community safety officer Gill Finn sent out a parent info alert on Internet safety as our youngsters went back to school, signposting “a brilliant website” – parentinfo.org – where parents can learn the teen lingo and get helpful tips on Internet safety.
There’s help for parents and youngsters, too, on other websites and from schools.
A spokesman for the National Crime Agency told us: “Child sexual exploitation and abuse is one of the most serious crime threats facing the UK, and the severity of this threat means it is vital that children and parents know how to stay safe online.
“There are resources available for children, parents and teachers at www.thinkuknow.co.uk which will inform and educate on the dangers that may be encountered online and how you can help protect children and young people.”
Romanian-born Spalding mum Cristina Dale (32) says English is her first language after living in the UK for ten years but says she “didn’t even know there’s a computer language the children are using” – and thanked the Spalding Guardian for alerting parents.
Cristina said: “We should be aware. I should be able to understand my little girl’s language.”
You wouldn’t think there was much for the mum-of-two to do just yet on Internet safety with the elder of two children only five, but you would be wrong.
Only this week Cristina had to download a parental control app to police her daughter’s use of an iPad, but remains worried that’s still not enough protection – and the only way to keep her safe is to be by her daughter’s side.
She said: “I forever have to watch her on Youtube.”
Cristina herself received an unsolicited email with a trailer for an extremely violent film and says her daughter would have been upset if she’d had access to it.
Field sales rep Rosie Sharp (27) has cut down her own use of social media and says: “If I have children, I think I would ban the Internet until they are teenagers because it’s too easy to search dangerous things.
“I hardly use my Facebook because it’s a very nosy business, although I do use messenger.
“Someone can easily pretend they are someone else and create a Facebook account and talk to children.
“I get annoyed when Facebook people try to add me as a friend when I don’t know them.
“There are fake accounts that try and add me – you can sort of tell that they are fake because their only friends are my mutual friends and they have only got about four friends.”
Rosie says the potential risks on the Internet are quite serious and Googling a seemingly innocent, simple, word can bring up content that children shouldn’t see.