We often hear concerns from parents about the “secret language” teens use on their technology, so-called webspeak used as shorthand in texting and instant messaging (IM’ing). Like many things, this language is another area for parents to learn and connect with their teen. To ease parents’ fears, we offer these 5 tips from experts:

1. The impact on language remains minimal. Parents and teachers have worried that the poor grammar and misspellings in texting language has had a negative impact on the language. But recent research hasn’t shown this connection (Experts Divided Over Internet Changes to Language). So parents can get over any worries about the negative impact of texting on their teen’s other writing.

2. All the writing that teens (and tweens) are doing may be good for them! Texting, e-mailing and IM’ing gives teens a creative outlet and practice in using the written language. In the words of NetLingo founder, Erin Jansen, “. . . don’t get angry or upset about that, get creative. If it’s helping the kids write more or communicate more in their first draft, that’s great, that’s what teachers and educators want, to get students communicating.”

3. Consider that this secret language is just another way for your teen to separate and create his or her own identity. As with the creative expression in clothing choices, hair cuts, choice of friends and activities, teen’s secret code is actually just a functional way for your child to establish boundaries and do their job as a teen – to separate and create their own identity.

4. Stay knowledgeable. Just as with other “teen issues,” parents don’t necessarily need to stop their teen’s behavior, but they do need to stay informed. Regardless of the positive aspects of teens’ secret language, if your child is involved in high risk behaviors, this secrecy can prevent you from doing your job as a parent – to provide safety for your child. Be assured that secret languages are nothing new. Ememberay igpay atinlay? The web and phone technology, however, allow for a very powerful type of secret networking that can be hazardous for young people who are easily influenced, or who are drawn to high risk behaviors. As well, there are, unfortunately, predators who use web resources to find victims. Check out these links to learn more:

NetLingo: The Internet Dictionary
Web Wise Kids: Wisdom Begins with You
Webspeak: The Secret Language of Teens

5. Connect. Connect. Connect. And we don’t mean Internet connection. As we advocate at Chaos to Connection, regardless of your teen’s behavior in regards to webspeak, remember to connect with your teen. Find ways for your teen to get off the technology (and you!) and to do things together. As with other potentially risky behaviors, find ways to talk to your teen about safety and technology (see Parents. The Anti-Drug’s Teen and Technology site for tips). You can even use your teen’s love of texting or e-mailing to stay in communication. Texting often feels less intrusive than a phone call and can be a discrete way to check on your teen when he or she is with friends.

Author's Bio: 

Michael's passion is helping young people, especially those who are labeled “at-risk,” their families, and their communities, nationally and internationally. This passion has lead him to co-create Chaos to Connection, to offer a groundbreaking parenting program to all families. Combining business and project management experience with clinical experience, Michael directs the transformation of therapeutic models and counselor's experience into powerful tools for families.

Michael has a degree in Marriage and Family Therapy and over 20 years of experience working with youth and families in private practice, therapeutic groups, residential treatment, wilderness therapy, crisis debriefing, and family systems restoration. He co-created Chaos to Connection with Vive's Dave Herz to continue his work to restore families and communities. His work has taken him nationally to New York City’s Harlem and the Mississippi Delta, and internationally to Russia, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Haiti, and China.

Michael lives outside of Boulder, Colorado with his wife and two children (who always have more to teach him about parenting) and in his free time enjoys playing with his family, biking, fly fishing, snowboarding, writing, and enjoying the bounty of Colorado’s natural wonders.