Cyb3rsp3@k m@k25 w@v35

December 6, 2007
By
Typical. It’s Friday, and you’re stuck inside from the rain. You log onto AIM (that’s AOL Instant Messenger for you old farts) and soon, you’re immersed in a conversation with your friends about whether or not so-and-so should have really cut their hair or how badly we did at the football game last week or if anyone read for World History. It takes you a moment to realize it, but when you do you turn around immediately; your mom is standing over your shoulder, scanning the chat log. “I saw those abbreviations on NBC,” she might say, or “What does TTFN mean?” or maybe even “Who are you talking to? Who is surf_chicka1991?” While the questions might change, the fact remains the same. In the immortal words of Will Smith, parents just don’t understand.
In a recent survey conducted here at Miami Country Day School, it was found that kids overpowered adults in their knowledge of the online-based acronyms by nearly 90%, as was to be expected. Adults put up a rather good fight, proving that they knew almost as much as the generation below them did by recognizing several shortened words; 80% of the adults recognized the term LOL, while 100% of the teenagers interviewed did. Terms like ILY were recognized equally by both age groups (40% for each) and others, like Y/N, put them in the 70% of adults that recognized it 10% ahead of their younger counterparts.

And whether teens use these acronyms to save on keystrokes or simply because they do not wish anyone watching to know what exactly they are doing, what many have now dubbed "netspeak" is spreading like wildfire. Netspeak changes from teen to teen and place to place. From conversations that are as drastically deteriorated ("yo u lik ma dngrs fyace") to merely altered forms of the English language and a loss of uppercase letters and punctuation ("tbh i consider this to be true"), netspeak often varies to reflect the personality of those that use it.

Even in the popular program that most news stations (most prominently NBC and CNN) choose to air that lists several "acronyms to watch out for", a predator's profile is strangely permeated through his choice of words. This is the second point; only 10% of adults and no kids whatsoever knew what NIFOC and LMIRL meant, two very prominent terms that show up on each of these programs. A/S/L was recognized by an equal 30% of both age groups. The news programs are giving out information that, while pertinent in some places, is unable to cover other areas influenced by netspeak as well.

What does this mean? For one, it reinforces the idea that adults do not truly understand the thought processes and the world teenagers inhabit. However, a startling amount of teenagers did not understand many of the shortened words as well. Also important is the fact that the use of such limited grammar skills has interfered, or some may think, with the writing of this generation. Teenagers are having a startling amount of difficulty in differentiating between “your” and “you’re”, “there”, “their”, and “they’re”, and many other terms that should be drilled into heads by the time they have reached high school.
Whatever the truth is, one thing is for certain. Netspeak has become the criteria for children of this generation. The world is responding to the phenomena in various ways; Cingular (the new AT&T) has released several “IDK my BFF” commercials in which the characters speak entirely in the new grammar. Obviously, this is just another example of the world economy’s ability to adapt effectively with the masses.
Kids these days, you may shake your head and say. But the facts are straight; they’ve invented a code worthy of their own dictionaries and surveys, quizzes and national notice. Kids these days, they’re pretty bright, and it’s better to sit up, take notice, and educate yourselves of what they are truly involved in, rather than what NBC says they are.





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