Could your child be texting in code to hide the meaning of messages from you?
Yet risk-taking and exploration are a normal part of adolescent development and according to the American Psychological Association, “adolescents’ online versus offline lives and risks tend to look very similar.”
This article gives parents context and tips for how to successfully navigate this period of teen and adolescent development, particularly in the online world.
What are the 2021 Social Media Acronyms?
The good news is that media acronyms are published by a number of sources, like SmartSocial, and VeryWellFamily, so parents can stay current. Of the 116 Text and Social Media Acronyms that verywellfamily published this year, 106 are listed as Harmless acronyms and six as Red Flags.
Harmless Acronym Examples, 7 of 106
- 143: I love you
- 4EAE: Forever and ever
- ICYMI: In case you missed it
- MOS: Mom over shoulder
- SWYP: So what’s your point?
- TIME: Tears in my eyes
- WYCM: Will you call me?
Red Flag Acronyms
- ASL: Age/Sex/Location/ “As h—“
- FWB: Friends with benefits
- FYEO or 4YEO: For your eyes only
- GYPO: Get your pants off
- IWSN: I want sex now
- KPC: Keeping parents clueless
- NIFOC: Naked in front of computer
- NSFW: Not safe for work
- OC: Open crib (no parents will be home)
- TDTM: Talk dirty to me
Why Are Teens Taking Risks?
A popular theory in neuroscience points to ongoing development of the prefrontal cortext to explain risk taking and impulsive behaviours in teens, but that line of thinking is now being called a misinterpretation; that impulsivity is actually a desire to learn about the world.
If parents follow this more comforting line, that teens are curious and well-intended, the actions and precautions we can take to help and protect them become much clearer.
“The reason teens are doing all of this exploring and novelty seeking is to build experiences so that they can do a better job in making the difficult and risky decisions later in life – decisions like ‘Should I take this job?’ or ‘Should I marry this person?’, Valerie Reyna, Ph.D., director of the Human Neuroscience Institute at Cornell University
How Can Parents Reduce the Risks to Teens?
Help Your Child Develop Self-Control
Risks and dangers to teens can be mitigated through self-control skills, which begin in early childhood. If your teen does not have self-control or impulse control, it is important to help them develop it. With strong self-control skills, teens can manage more autonomy and independence.
Impulse control is a part of childhood development (ages 3-9), and self-control has been confirmed as having positive effects on pre-school and middle school academic, social and emotional ability, and the development of conscience, and can alleviate behavior, academic and emotional problems. Source, NCBI
Remember the Marshmallow Test
Psychologist Walter Mischel (author of The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control) conducted studies in the 1960’s that continue today, that children who, as 4 year-olds, could resist a tempting marshmallow, holding out for the promise of a larger reward (two marshmallows), became adults who were more likely to finish college and earn higher incomes, and were less likely to become overweight. This is called executive function and self-control. Source, American Psychological Association
Most teen exploration will not be dangerous, if they have the ability to make themselves do things they know they should do, even when they don’t want to. If our teens do not have this self-control, now is a good time to focus on helping them develop it.
Open a Dialogue About Online Risks
Child practitioner Melissa Fellin, advises parents to “teach youth what to look out for with predators on the web. Set limits on who they should be connecting with but also a space for them to ask questions without being embarrassed.”
She cites social media as the ‘moral panic’ of our generation of parents. Focusing on fear does not help the problem, youth are still going to develop their own language and they do have lives with peers outside of the home.
Her focus is to ask, “how do parents connect with their children more, so if there is something that happens their child will come to them? How do we create open spaces for youth to talk to us? How do we educate youth about what to look out for as dangers on social media?”
Parents can familiarize themselves with popular social platforms, to discuss the risks with their children, cyberbullying, invasion of privacy, identity theft, offensive messages and content and presence of strangers. Teens want to protect their privacy, so equipping them with information about risks and strategies will likely be welcome when offered.
Recognize and Model Self-Control
There is much we can do as parents, to encourage and foster our kids’ self-control. A great article from online mental health service ReachOut, suggests parents can provide motivation, check-in, coach, and praise, to help their child.
Let’s move beyond fear of secrecy and empower ourselves as parents, to help our kids.