5.4 million parents unsure about kids’ online slang


Popular online slang and emojis used by children to communicate with friends may as well be a foreign language to most parents, according to a recent study conducted by BT.


85% of adults can’t identify some abbreviations or emojis

The majority of adults were baffled by acronyms such as MIA, KMS and the cryptic ‘99’

Popular online slang and emojis used by children to communicate with friends may as well be a foreign language to most parents, according to a recent study conducted by BT.

In an online poll taken by over 4,500 adults to raise awareness of Safer Internet Day, the majority were not able to translate the real meaning of phrases such as MIA, KMS and the cryptic “99”.

For some people the internet can be hard to navigate and thanks to internet terminology, such as acronyms and emojis, our language is changing.

LOL used to mean lots of love but most people know it now as laugh out loud.

Emojis, used millions of times every day on social media and in texts, can mean different things to different people and some proved baffling when presented to respondents.

When used by kids the cheeky monkey with paws over its mouth translates to “I won’t tell anyone’” but over half of parents could not identify this meaning.

The emoji face with cross eyes is typed by children when they’ve seen something X-rated online, but five per cent of parents take this to mean that their child is tired, couldn’t see their friend’s point of view, or had been snubbed by a girl or boy.

However, there are terms with more serious implications. Some terms such as KMS (Kill Myself) even though used in jest by some teens were thought to mean “Keep My Secret” by 65 per cent of parents.

Only four per cent of adults could decipher MIA, a more unusual acronym and used by some young people online when they are talking about eating disorder, Bulimia.

The number “99” is used by children to indicate to their friends that their “Parents Have Stopped Watching” – a code which parents could find useful to know.

The generation gap is not so vast with some acronyms however, with eight per cent recognising GNOC as Get Naked On Camera and ASL as Age, Sex, Location.

More than 50 per cent of adults who took part in the quiz were aware of the secret meanings behind 182 (I Hate You), WTTP? (Want To Trade Pictures?) and (L)MIRL (Let’s Meet In Real Life). However, this still leaves half of parents that do not understand these terms.

The online poll was organised by BT to mark Safer Internet Day, an annual initiative organised by the UK Safer Internet Centre which this year is taking place on Tuesday 7 February. Supported by industry players such as BT, the day is designed to highlight issues faced by kids in the digital age, raise awareness and encourage parents to have open and honest conversations with their children about internet safety.

Pete Oliver, managing director, Commercial, Marketingand Digital at BT, said: “For young people growing up with technology, this new language comes naturally, but it’s leaving some adults unsure about what is being said by their children online.

“As we mark Safer Internet Day 2017, we think it’s important for adults to speak to young people about how they use social media and chat online. There are additional measures that can be taken to protect young people online too, such as BT Parental Controls which can limit access to certain sites and set times for when children can use the internet.”

Carolyn Bunting, general manager at Internet Matters, said: “Children’s use of the internet is developing at a rapid pace. While it is unrealistic to expect parents to understand every piece of internet slang their children will ever see, online safety starts with a conversation. It’s vital for parents to talk to their kids about their digital worlds, including the sorts of things they might experience online, and the types of issues to be aware of, from cyberbullying to privacy.

“For parents who want to find out more about their practical ways to keep their child safe online, we have advice and step-by-step guides on our website.”

For more information on internet safety for children, visit www.InternetMatters.org and to set up BT Parental Controls on your BT broadband visit www.bt.com/parentalcontrols