by Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC
Parents, your children's safety may depend upon you knowing their text and instant messaging lingo. Numerous web sites including TrueCare.net, and Netsmartz.org are now helping parents learn how to understand what their kids are saying to each other in an effort to prevent and stop bullying. For example, did you know that CD9 means parents are around or that MIRL means meet me in real life? If you think you have had the talk with your child and they understand the rules about texting and instant messaging, don't be sure that this is all you need to know to be safe. I participated in 17 stories for HLN and CNN last year. Thirteen of those stories had to do with children being hospitalized or killed due to bullying, suicide, or kidnappings from people they talked to on the Internet or texting.
Here are a few terms that will help you get started with understanding your children's texts or instant messaging.
One to one...121
I love you...143
I hate you...182
Too cool for you...2c4u
Too hot to handle...2H2H
Too much to handle...2M2H
Too much information...2 MI
Tomorrow...2morrow or 2mrw
To you too...2U2
For you too...4U2
Over, out of, get rid of...86
Parent in room...CD9
Parent has left...99
Anyplace, anywhere, anytime...A3
Always and forever...AAF
As a matter of fact...AAMOF
As far as I'm concerned...AFAIAC
AOL Instant Messenger...AIM
Actually laughing out loud...ALOL
Available on cell...AOC
Angel on your pillow...AOYP
Age, sex, location...ASL
Age, Sex, Location, Picture...ASLP
At what time...AWT
As you know...AYK
Are you stupid or something...AYSOS
Drug of choice...DOC
There has become a sexualization of youth in our society.
Sex is power, and kids want power. They want to fit in and feel good, and there are people who do not have your children's best interest at heart. These people are available at all times via the internet and texting. Parents must be aware and talk with their kids. Make your home a safe place your child can come home to. You can create a safe place by following these guidelines offered by Netsmartz.org.
1. Keep the computer in a common area.
2. Create safe user names and profiles.
3. Don't let your children meet face to face with strangers they met online (you have to be checking to know.)
4. Teach children what to do if they get an offensive or threatening IM, E-Mail, or chartroom post (they should begin by showing you.) For cyberbullying, go to http://wiredsafety.org/ or email http://www.cybertipline.com/. You can also call them at 1-800-843-5678.
5. Look into filtering or monitoring software for your computer.
6. Let children show you what they can do online and visit their favorite sites.
Parents, it takes your involvement to keep your child safe.
Remember that girls cyberbully more than boys and that bullying is no longer the bullying you grew up with. It is constant torture; and it happens at a time your child's sense of self is not fully developed. This is part of the reason it can have disastrous effects on children. Any child under the age of 14 should not be on a social network. If your tween is on Facebook, MySpace, or any of the other social networks, I would ask you to reconsider setting firmer boundaries at home. Blaming the schools, churches, or wherever else your child encountered a harmful person will not help if your child is hurt, nor will it heal your pain if your child takes their life.
Mary Jo Rapini, MEd, LPC, is a licensed psychotherapist and co-author with Janine J. Sherman, of Start Talking: A Girl's Guide for You and Your Mom About Health, Sex or Whatever. Read more about the book at www.StartTalkingBook.com and more about Rapini at www.maryjorapini.com.