Saturday, May 23, 2009

More Parent-Teen Hysteria

I remember when I was in high school, the local sheriff circulated some papers that were supposedly signs for parents to watch for, indicating that their children were involved in satanism (this was in the late 80's when that was the paranoia of the moment). A buddy of mine and I sat in the back of our English class laughing our heads off (and seriously disrupting class, which was one of the signs on the list) at this ridiculous attempt by an out-of-touch adult to try and categorize the behavior of teenagers. We went through the list and checked off everything that applied to us and determined that, according to the sheriff, my buddy and I were both die-hard satanists. Of course, we weren't any such thing and weren't the least bit interested in being such, but that's what you get when someone claims to understand something but really doesn't have a clue.
That list, at least, was a list of real things. It was a remarkably convoluted list of pretty much everything (the symbols it listed included everything from the peace sign and eternity knot to pentacles and goat skulls, and the behavior list included just about every teen misbehavior possibility you could think of) and, because it lumped everything together, it meant absolutely nothing, but the borderline reality of it still put it ahead of the more modern list I just read.
There is a place online called Netlingo that claims to translate internet speech and shorthand for those less in the know. The site has a pair of lists, Top 50 Internet Acronyms Parents Need to Know and Top 50 More Acronyms Every Parent Should Know, that are pretty much the modern equivalent of that anti-satanism list from my high school days. According to founder Erin Jansen, "This is stuff that's being used all across the Internet" but if you show this list to your teenagers, you're going to get nothing but blank looks and laughter.
Some stuff, the easy stuff, the list does get right. Things like BRB and LOL are so universal (and have been universal for so long) that they really do not even require translations anymore. I can think of a few other abbreviations that, while fairly common, are not quite as common and so might require translation. It is also true that there are a number of sexual conversation abbreviations that might not be known to those who are not familiar with those chat environments in the first place. This list, however, is garbage. It combines just enough real (and mostly innocuous) terms with some very outdated geekspeak terms (1337, for example, is old school geekspeak code for elite, but it is hardly ever used anymore and I doubt many teenagers today would have any idea what you were saying if you used it) and then spices things up with terms that are, quite simply, made up out of whole cloth.
Let me give you a clue (and an example). Internet shorthand terms are just that - shorthand, abbreviations, simplifying codes. They are things that let you use three letters (BRB) instead of a longer phrase (be right back) for commonly used expressions. They occasionally let you say something (420) without coming right out and saying it (marijuana), but that is much less common. What they do not do is set up a complicated new language base that you would actually have to learn before you could use. No one in their right mind is going to use something as long and cumbersome as AWGTHTGTTA (Are We Going To Have To Go Through This Again) when something simple and more direct ("???", perhaps or, "WTF" maybe) is available. It not only doesn't make sense, it's too much work. It is too much for multiple people to have to memorize and assume that others have memorized. Teens often speak their own language anyway. Something like this would just be a useless add on.
As for the parent alerts (things like CD9 = "parents around" or P911 = "parent alert"), I'm not going to say they don't exist, but I can say I've never seen them. As someone who has been online for 12 years, more or less, has been through more chatrooms than most people know exist, has logged countless hours on dozens of MMO's, and is currently a thriving participant in what might be the largest chatroom ever conceived (Second Life), I'd say the fact that I've never seen these codes actually means something. They might exist and they might be used, but they are nowhere near as common as the creator of this list would like parents to believe.
I'll leave you with another quote that should bomb these ridiculous lists out of existence:
"There are spikes in the amount of usage for each acronym, and regional variations," she adds. "Something that's being used on the West Coast, for example, won't be in the East, and the South may use terms that aren't common in the Pacific Northwest. And the Midwest is just a hotbed of this sex chat-room stuff."
Regional variations in an online environment that knows almost nothing of regional separations? I don't know about you, but this doesn't sound like any kind of internet expert to me.

1 comment:

  1. Oh FFS, kids cuss when adults aren't looking? I'm more worried about the ones who actually swear AT their parents.