Saturday, May 06, 2006

Leet: The Secret Online Kids Code

Kids using internet messages have developed a code (called leet or leetspeak) all their own in order to both save keystrokes and befuddle adults who are trying to figure out what's being said:
As high school students, Kari Burnsed, Emily Rice and Kate Marmion spend a lot of time online. And they say they've seen the good and bad that can come from cryptic internet conversations.

"If a parent is in the room they'll say POS which means 'Parent Over Shoulder'," said teenager Kari Burnsed.

But even with a someone looking over your shoulder we found there are many code words to use to disguise what you are saying online. And if you want to say something in code you can even go to sites that will translate it for you.

"You have to work hard to have that kind of stuff," said Burnsed. "It's more effort than it's really worth."

It may be a lot of effort but licensed counselor Regina Smith said many young people don't mind going out of their way.

"They do have their own language," said Smtih. "They do have ways of convincing their parents that even red flags aren't really red flags."

Smith said parents need to key in to certain social behaviors.

"Are they withdrawing from friends they usually are with," warned Smith. "Are they in front of the computer all of the time? Are there new friends (parents) don't know?"

Otherwise Smith and the teens we spoke with said some online conversations may cause more harm than good.

"When (an internet user is) constantly asking you where you are from, constantly asking you what you look like, telling you you look good ,what age you are it's scary," said teenager Kate Marmion. "Kids should know those are warnings signs that you shouldn't be talking to that person when you don't know where they are from or who they are."

"I would definitely be concerned," said teenager Emily Rice. "You never know who's out there and who you are actually talking to."

"The Internet is a great tool," said Smith. "But it can be dangerous and we have to help our children navigate that system."

To protect your child online, the FBI suggests the following:

-Keep computers in common areas of your house.

-Talk to your children about on-line dangers and tell them not to give out identifying information like addresses or phone numbers.

-Use parental controls on your computer

-Monitor use of chat rooms
From the site called netlingo, we have a list of the top 20 most popular leet terms:

1. POS - Parent Over Shoulder

2. PIR - Parent In Room

3. P911 - Parent Alert

4. PAW - Parents Are Watching

5. PAL - Parents Are Listening

6. ASL - Age/Sex/Location

7. MorF - Male or Female

8. SorG - Straight or Gay

9. LMIRL - Let's Meet In Real Life

10. KPC - Keeping Parents Clueless

11. TDTM - Talk Dirty To Me

12. IWSN - I Want Sex Now

13. NIFOC - Nude In Front Of Computer

14. GYPO - Get Your Pants Off

15. ADR - Address

16. WYCM - Will You Call Me?

17. KFY - Kiss For You

18. MOOS - Member(s) Of the Opposite Sex

19. MOSS or MOTSS - Member(s) Of The Same Sex

20.NALOPKT - Not A Lot Of People Know That

At the bottom of the page, there's an additional set of terms that Netlingo calls 50 More Internet Acronyms Every Parent Should Know. I think that the list makes for an informative read. Even better,
here is a complete listing of Acronyms and Text Messaging Shorthand.

For those in need, here is a leetspeak translator.

Here in the WonkHouse, our internet computer is located in the family room. We are very wary when it comes to our 14-year old daughter, the TeenWonk, whenever she is viewing online sites, we make sure that either myself or the WifeWonk is nearby.

It's not a perfect arrangement, but it seems to work for us.

Update (PM) In response to a concern expressed by commenter "Goldie" here's more information on the background of leetspeak.
See our latest education-related entries right here.