Dear Mr. Dad: My 12-year-old daughter recently had a slumber party with two friends from school. One of them left her phone. I texted my daughter so she could tell her friend, and two seconds later got this back: DO NOT READ ANYTHING ON THAT PHONE!!!!! Clearly she was trying to hide something, so I immediately opened the phone and started reading the texts - especially between this girl and my daughter. With all the abbreviations, I could hardly understand what they were talking about. But based on my daughter's response, I'm worried. Should I be? And was I wrong to read those texts?
A: Yes and no. Your daughter's screaming response could simply be a demand for privacy, which is something you should try to respect. However, her response seems so panicky that I think you were right to snoop. The fact that you couldn't understand what you were reading doesn't necessarily mean there's anything to worry about - your daughter and her friend could be having completely innocent conversations that you're just not cool enough to understand (very few adults are). On the other hand, it could be exactly the opposite.
If you've followed pop culture at all, you probably already know words like "BFF" (best friends forever), "OMG" (Oh, my God/gosh), "twerking" (a squatting, hip-thrusting dance that simulates sex), "selfie" (taking pictures of yourself with your phone), and "sexting" (taking naked pictures of yourself and sending them to other people). Those words have become so common that they're showing up in dictionaries.
To help you decide whether you should worry about your daughter's conversations, here are some words and abbreviations you need to know.
Bounce: Planning to leave
BRB: I'll be right back
Fam: The family
Fly: Very cool
HBU: How 'bout you?
HMU: Hit me up
IDK/IDC: I don't know/I don't care
ILU/ILU2: I love you/I love you too
IRL: In real life
LOL/ROLF: Laughing out loud/rolling on the floor laughing
Noob: A person ignorant about something related to pop culture
OMW: On my way
Sick: Something awesome or surprising - in the same way as "bad" used to mean "good"
Swag: The way someone carries himself or herself, exuding confidence
Most of the words above are pretty harmless, and you may be able to up your cool factor by occasionally using a few of them in your own texts. Anything below, though, should cause you some concern.
ASL: Age, sex, location
Crunk: A combination of crazy and drunk
F2F/MIRL: Face to face/meet in real life
Getting it On, Doing the Dirty, Tapping, Bump Fuzzies: Having sex
GNOC/GYPO/NIFOC: Get naked on camera/get your pants off/naked in front of computer
KPC: Keep parents clueless
PAW/POS/Code9/CD9: Parents are watching/parents over shoulder
TDTM: Talk dirty to me
WTF/STFU: What the f...?/shut the f... up
XXL: Well-endowed male
If everything in your daughter's texts was on the first list, great. If anything was on the second list, you and your daughter need to have some serious conversations about online safety and appropriate uses of technology. Remind her that having a phone is a privilege, not a right. Expect some pushback about how you violated her and her friend's privacy, but her texts are more than enough proof that she needs supervision. Like it or not, your family isn't (or shouldn't be) a democracy: your house, your rules, and anyone not paying the mortgage has to earn the right to complete privacy.
(Read Armin Brott's blog at www.DadSoup.com, follow him on Twitter, @mrdad, or send email to email@example.com.)