Say WHAT? Teen speak
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Say WHAT? Teen speak

Say WHAT? Teen speak

  • If most of the information communicated in an in-person interaction comes from tone of voice and body language, it is virtually impossible to grasp the deeper meaning and context of text-based communication. Add emojis and emoticons into the mix and it is all as clear as mud!
  • As parents, we need to be aware of the slang and language our children use online, as it can be an early warning detection for problems our teens and tweens may be facing.
  • Teens and tweens who already rely on online interactions to express themselves, face more of a challenge to speak to parents about problems they may be facing.

In a now often quoted piece of research by Albert Mehrebian, it was found that in any in-person interaction, only 7% of the communicated information comes from the words used, with 38% being communicated by the tone of voice and 55% by body language. It comes as no surprise then, that if only 7% of the meaning of an interaction comes from the words we use, reducing those words to text and emojis makes true understanding of each other an impossible task.

This is a real challenge, with real-world implications. As tweens and teens rely more and more on text-based digital media to build the social relationships they are biologically hardwired to seek out, the gap between how they and their parents communicate continues to widen. As parents, we need to be sure that we can pick up on the signals that our child may be going through something they can’t handle on their own.

These signals may come in the forms we are used to – excessive moodiness, resistance to social interactions, isolating themselves, lack of enthusiasm – but understanding online signals is something we all need help with!

Navigating the line between respecting your child’s increasing desire for privacy and making sure they are not in need of support, is a delicate balancing act. However, as parents, our primary concern must be the prioritisation of our children’s emotional and physical safety. There can be no right to privacy when nothing we do online is private! 

Teen speak is constantly evolving, but we’ve drawn up handy reference guides to help you decipher the digital language of acronyms, emojis, and emoticons, which we hope will give you more insight into your children’s online lives, and help you to decide whether they need support, or just a little space.