Teen Speak: Gag me with a spoon!

That’s right, I was a Valley Girl. Not the pretend kind. I grew up in the San Fernando Valley and could weave 30 “likes” into any conversations with skill and ease. I had great intonation. Plus, I had perfected the eye roll (also known in the day as rad skilz!). I’m sure it was painful for anyone over the age of 16 to engage in conversation with me.

That said, there were some phrases that were off limits, including: “Like, oh my God.” The other no-no: “Shut up!” (as in “no waaay!”). My parents made it clear they didn’t want to hear either of those and especially not directed at them. Today, these top my list of no-no phrases too. So, it’s no surprise that I wince whenever I hear a fourth grader say, “OMG.”

Yet, OMG is typical of today's teen speak, which is cloaked in cryptic acronyms via a steady stream of text messages. A recent report in the Wall Street Journal, said that the average teen sends more than 100 texts per day or more than 3000 text messasges per month. That's a lot of time. But, my beef isn't with quantity. I logged a ridiculous number of hours on the telephone when I was teeny-bopper. (Of course, the phone was tethered to the wall and I was safely tucked in my bedroom.)

My problem is the number hours spent sending sloppy, grammatically incorrect text messages back and forth. Not to be melodramatic, but I’m concerned about the destruction of the English language and annihilation of general civility. (Okay - so I'm a little melodramatic). For real -- I find texting crass. When I see LOL, I want to scream, “Use your words!” So cliché. So boring. So utterly lazy.

However, I'm smart enough to know that this is how my kids will someday soon communicate with me. They won’t use whole sentences with punctuation. They won’t even use their own words. They’ll send me quick, punchy texts to tell me their whereabouts. But, because it’s their language and their rules – I’m learning.

The Online Mom, Monica Villa, writes, “Think of the Internet as a giant swimming pool. You can put a fence around it. But, the safest child will be the one who knows how to swim!” I’d add one important footnote here. You can’t teach your kid to float if you don’t get in the water.

So, this is me, diving into the world of texting – NT (no thanks), NE1HR (anyone here), 143 (I love you), PAL (parents are listening) or TAW (teachers are watching). For the down-low on IM/texting lingo, check out Monica’s handbook on “Staying Safe Online.” And to keep it real, I remind myself that I regularly used the words "groddy," "totally" and the occassional "gnarly" during my formative years. Alas, I turned out okay.

(In full disclosure – I skillfully butcher the English language everyday on Twitter and have never once used LOL, ROFL or LMAO. I prefer the authentic “HA!” or laid-back “funny” instead. There’s also the sublime “tee-hee-hee.”)

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